Take Back Alberta Leaders are Training ‘Scrutineers’ to Infiltrate Campaigns and Act as ‘Security’ on Voting Day
Inside a right-wing group organizing to dispute votes and sow doubts about Alberta’s upcoming provincial election
Top leaders of the far-right “Take Back Alberta” group are holding late night webinars training supporters on how to infiltrate campaigns, get appointed as scrutineers and raise doubts about the results of Alberta’s upcoming election.
The group’s most recent training session featured several prominent organizers with leadership roles in Take Back Alberta, including TBA Calgary captain Roy Beyer and organizer Benita Pederson, who emcees TBA’s online and in-person events.
The event was also promoted by Pedersen on TBA’s Telegram channel, where she serves as an “admin” — one of only a small handful of people able to post messages.
Take Back Alberta Executive Director David Parker says he’s aware of the scrutineer training webinars, but denies his organization has any formal involvement.
“The training is just to explain what scrutineering is and what you’re looking for,” Parker told PressProgress. “That’s not being done by Take Back Alberta, it’s being done by people who have been involved with Take Back Alberta.”
“They’re doing this because they’re really concerned for the integrity of the vote.”
Despite the overlaps between TBA and the webinars for scrutineers, Pedersen is always careful to distance the webinar from TBA or any other organization.
“This particular webinar for scrutineers is a grassroots initiative,” Pederson told webinar attendees last Friday. “This is not put on by any organization.”
Pedersen describes them as “just individuals who have come together … caring Albertans that want to see integrity” and “ensure integrity in this election.”
Prior to getting involved with Take Back Alberta and running webinars for scrutineers, Pedersen organized protests at vaccine clinics and hospitals. Two years ago, the anti-vaccine rally organizer made news after getting into a shouting match with a nurse outside Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital.
In 2021, Pedersen helped conspiracy theorist Chris Saccoccia promote a protest that saw dozens of anti-vaxxers storm a children’s toy store in the West Edmonton Mall and ultimately ended in Saccoccia’s arrest.
Now Pedersen is training supporters to man polling stations in case something “untoward” should happen on election day.
“One of the things we’re looking to do is make sure the number of ballots in the boxes matches the number of people that came through,” Pedersen explained in a video posted on Facebook to promote the webinar.
“Serving as a scrutineer is a bit like serving as security at an event,” Pedersen added. “Just the existence of security at an event is enough to prevent people from misbehaving.”
“Often the security doesn’t have to do anything, they just kinda gotta stand there and watch and people are less inclined to misbehave.”
The training webinar itself glosses over the actual duties of an election scrutineer and instead focuses on potential “security problems” and threats from “bad actors.”
One guest speaker introduced by Pedersen presented a slideshow about potential security vulnerabilities in Alberta’s voting machines.
“It is a fact that the 2020 election in the United States was an inflection point for a lot of people,” said presenter Ryan Murray. “And I started asking: What happened down there? Was it real? Did it really happen? Could it happen in Canada?”
Murray dived into his concerns with voting machines, alleging they have “documented issues,” pointing out they were not built in Alberta but by a company based in Omaha, Nebraska and raising questions about the “source code.”
“What’s going on with the source code?” Murray asked. “Do we have access to the source code? If we don’t know the programming and how these tabulators are actually processing our ballots, how they’re scanning them, how they’re storing them.”
“What’s going on inside of these machines?”
“It is documented,” Murray said. “These machines do have issues.”
Murray explained all his information on voting machines is based on independent research that he is able to conduct because he has a “large amount of free time to do research.”
“I like to go right to the source,” Murray said. “Right to the horses mouth to find out what’s really going on.”
On his Substack blog, Murray outlines his theory that voting machines used in Calgary’s municipal elections can be manipulated by the Chinese government.
Roy Beyer, founder of the convoy group Taking Back Our Freedoms and Calgary captain of Take Back Alberta, said he also has concerns about tabulators.
“I think we all would have preferred that we didn’t have tabulators,” Beyer said. “With the tabulators, there’s so much lack of confidence on the part of voters where these have been used elsewhere.”
“We’re going to empower you with information as to what is the best thing we can do to minimize the cheating. Can we eliminate it? No. But we can minimize it for sure.”
Other issues raised during the webinar included the possibility of “busloads” of voters arriving at polling stations and fears that foreign nationals or Ukrainian refugees could cast votes — possibly with the help of landlords signing false attestations.
“If I see a busload of people showing up to a poll I’m going to go into panic mode,” said one webinar participant.
Anjelika Oulanova, a presenter who previously hosted a Take Back Alberta event at her home near Okotoks, provided a presentation on “How to ensure integrity of our vote” that cast doubt on the reliability of voting machines and asked attendees: “If we have machines that don’t count correctly, how can we rely on them?”
Oulanova suggested scrutineers buy “handheld tally counters,” or “clickers,” on Amazon to manually count the number of voters entering polling stations and explained how to look up voters’ addresses on their phones to make sure it’s a residential property.
“You can use your cell phone to check the address on declarations,” Oulanova said. “If it’s a commercial building, we’ve got a problem, you’ve got to dispute that declaration.”
Oulanova provided a list of 34 battleground ridings for scrutineers to target.
“These are the 34 ridings, these are the close votes,” Oulanova explained. “These are the ridings where the vote is close and this is where it is most important to have scrutineers.”
Although the webinar was presented as unaffiliated with any party, Pedersen made clear that she and other webinar organizers firmly support Danielle Smith’s UCP.
“Personally I support the United Conservative Party and I’m quite optimistic that the majority of people here are on board with that,” Pedersen said.
Oulanova also provided a “script” that gives scrutineers instructions on how to dispute votes with Elections Alberta poll workers and advises them on how to ask to physically examine voting machines.
“Before using the Tabulator, let’s ensure that the security seals are intact and have not been tampered with,” scrutineers are instructed to say. “Now let’s look at ‘Advance Voting Daily Tabulator Log’ of the ‘Public Count’ on the tabulator and compare it to the count recorded on the previous day when the Tabulator was shut down. Is the number the same?”
Under Alberta election laws, scrutineers can only be appointed by a registered candidate, not by third party groups.
“Candidates or their official agents are responsible for appointing scrutineers to observe in voting places,” an Elections Alberta spokesperson told PressProgress.
To get around this, Pedersen instructed webinar attendees to cultivate relationships with local candidates and then, when the right moment presents itself, offer themselves as scrutineers.
“You need to go to your local candidate or a candidate in another constituency, go to the campaign office and start building a relationship with those people,” Pedersen said.
“Say ‘hi, I want to help, how can I help? And so perhaps they want you to help with the campaign, but then at some point when the moment is right you say ‘I want to serve as a scrutineer’.”
If a scrutineer is “unable to connect” with their preferred candidate, Pedersen suggested infiltrating an opposing party’s campaign.
“If you can’t get in as a scrutineer under your preferred candidate — this is getting a little creative, we’re stepping outside the box here — get in as a scrutineer for another candidate,” Pedersen said.
“Your secret reason is of course you couldn’t be a scrutineer for the candidate you really want to be a scrutineer for, but that’s fine. Call them up and say I’ll serve as a scrutineer for you and they’ll probably snap you up like that because I bet they’re really short of helpers.”
“You don’t want to tell a lie, but you don’t have to tell the whole truth either.”
Although Pedersen stressed the webinar had no affiliation with other organizations, such as Take Back Alberta, she noted that she is involved with multiple groups and had a “hunch some of you will be interested in some of these other projects.”
Pederson wrapped up the webinar by plugging the “TBA Zoom workshop series” and other TBA events, including a live TBA event in Red Deer starring Jordan Peterson.
Although the group has claimed a “representative from Elections Alberta” is helping deliver its scrutineer training webinars, Elections Alberta flatly denies this claim.
“Elections Alberta isn’t involved in any scrutineer training with any individuals or organizations,” a spokesperson for the election agency told PressProgress.
Our journalism is powered by readers like you.
We’re an award-winning non-profit news organization that covers topics like social and economic inequality, big business and labour, and right-wing extremism.
Help us build so we can bring to light stories that don’t get the attention they deserve from Canada’s big corporate media outlets.