By April L. Bogle
A former law professor and a businessman turned podcaster preached their views on election fraud at the First Baptist Church Fernandina Beach, Sat., April 15. Two local conservative organizations, We the People and Citizens Defending Freedom-Nassau (CDF-Nassau), promoted the event. CDF-Nassau advertised in the News-Leader’s “Out & About” section, and We the People did so in Citizens Journal Florida.
Billed as “Restoring Trust in Elections” the presentation was clearly intended to do the opposite. It featured David Clements, who has been driving across the nation to spread his gospel of a widespread “vote trafficking scheme” since he left New Mexico State University in 2021, and Joe Oltmann, former owner of a data marketing firm, who has made national headlines claiming he can prove the Dominion Voting Systems machines used in the 2020 presidential election were rigged for Joe Biden.
Janet Adkins, Supervisor of Elections for Nassau County, was among the approximately 100-person audience, which included people from other communities including Florida’s west coast.
“I was there because I think it’s important to listen to all points of view and to evaluate all issues related to ballot security. My job is to protect the public trust, and we work every day to earn that trust,” Adkins said.
Clements took the podium first. “None of you have truly voted in the better part of 20 years, not if you understand what a vote is. … You are submitting a manipulated, fractionalized data point.”
He spent the next 90-plus minutes walking the audience through a series of images. News clips showing precinct closings on election day before ballot counting was finished were designed to imply fraud. Photos of black boxes into which voters feed their completed ballots were to be seen as “the new slave master.” Recreations of databases — using unsubstantiated data — supposedly showed how vote tallies are manipulated.
In courtroom style, Clements laid out a complex case in a compelling manner, planting seeds of doubt that only those with an understanding of information technology could understand – or challenge.
Most in the room were rapt, though some showed skepticism by sighing and fidgeting.
His closing was a call to action, charging the audience to be “many Moseses confronting many Pharaohs” at the local level to demand they abandon black boxes and return to paper ballots. “It’s kill or be killed time,” he said.
About 80% of the room gave Clements a standing ovation. But he was just the warm-up act.
Oltmann was the main attraction. He founded an organization called Faith, Education, and Commerce (FEC) United in 2020 to “start pushing back” against COVID-related shutdowns of small businesses.
“As I started to see things that happened when they shut it down … they didn’t want to do it economically because they wanted President Trump to lose.”
He started a podcast, “Conservative Daily,” to deliver his viewpoint and took to the streets to confront protestors after the death of George Floyd.
“We had one rule. You throw a soup can at us, we’re going to take all your teeth out … I like fighting,” he said. “I got into a lot of fights in the summer of 2020. I hit a guy so hard I saw his soul leave his body, and then the way I live my life, I picked him off the ground and said, yep concussion, you need to live to see another day, you need to leave, and I [helped] him home.”
His election fraud focus started after he infiltrated a meeting of “Antifa journalists” where he says he heard Eric Coomer of Dominion reassure others on the call that Trump would not win re-election in 2020. “Trump is not going to win. I made f—ing sure of that,” Oltmann claims Coomer said.
“God put me on that call,” said Oltmann.
Although there appears to be no credible evidence Coomer made such a comment, Oltmann gained right-wing media attention, and in December 2020, Coomer filed a defamation lawsuit against him that is still pending.
Also in December 2020, Oltmann said he created a replica of the Dominion system in three days by using “what’s called compression theory,” which he described as taking all the information he could access from states, stacking it, and building a model based on “all the variables we saw happen on Nov. 3, all available affidavits for 4,000-5,000 people.”
He sent it to “guys in D.C.” who sent “DNI, DHS, like CIA guys” to evaluate it. As Jan. 6, 2022 approached, the day Congress was to certify the election of Joe Biden as president, he was “sent to Washington and met with all the people you should meet with.” He said he was told to meet with Trump but declined.
“They didn’t have a plan. … They didn’t know sh– about technology and they just spouted off at the mouth,” he said, which led to confusion, giving “the media fodder needed to discredit all election fraud that happened across the country, and the tech companies shut us down.”
Nassau County’s Adkins, who has 12 years of experience working in IT, including as a programmer, shared her doubts about the machine fraud claims presented. “From an IT perspective, it’s certainly possible to write any of those utilities or programs or algorithms, as they were called, but what they didn’t cover is how individuals get access to those machines and that’s a very big part of what we do. We have multiple layers of security and multiple ways of conducting checks and balances. If there was an issue, I really believe we would know about it.”
She also questioned the notion that the numerous precinct closings referenced by both speakers were part of a fraudulent scheme. She explained the closings were more likely due to time running out before ballot counting could be completed.
“In Florida, we can start canvassing mail-in ballots as soon as we complete the logic and accuracy test for the equipment. We started a month prior to the 2020 general election, so by the election, we’d already spent many hours opening and tabulating, whereas other states are not allowed to start until the morning of the election. In Nassau County, when we end for the night, we end because we’re finished. We had a head start.”
It remains to be seen if Adkins’ job will now be more challenging given the claims made by the speakers.
Both Clements and Oltmann appealed to the audience’s sympathies by speaking of challenges they’ve faced in delivering their messages for more than two years. Clements said he lost his job, was “stripped of my law license” and is currently going through his “fifth investigation.” Oltmann said he lost his company, his family requires extra security precautions, and he continues to battle the defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion’s Coomer.
And both emphasized their Christian beliefs, Clements saying he’s a “Bible believing Christian” and Oltmann saying his work is “a calling.” Yet both regularly inject violence into their social media platforms, as they did in Fernandina Beach last Saturday night.
A Reuters special report on Clements featured one of his “The Professor’s Record” posts: “I endorse firing squads when the crime of treason has been committed. Firing squads have my full, total, and unwavering endorsement!” (Dec. 21, 2022)
Oltmann got widespread news coverage in December 2021 by calling for the mass execution of politicians whom he said were traitors to America, including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. During his “Conservative Daily” podcast, he said, “I want people to go out there and get some wood. The gallows are getting wider and longer. We should be able to build gallows all the way from Washington, D.C., to California,” later adding the comment, “stretch that rope” with reference to Gov. Polis. (Colorado Newsline, Dec. 3, 2021)
Adkins seeks to defuse tensions and address issues by tapping into local viewpoints through her 23-member advisory council, composed of citizens of both political parties and election workers. The group, which meets every six to eight weeks, is meeting today to discuss the information presented at the Clements-Oltmann event.
“My job is to listen, to seek to understand, to communicate and not be emotional but be logical by explaining how we do elections in Nassau County.”
One of Adkins’ council members, Deb Boelkes, organized the Clements-Oltmann event for We the People, a conservative, non-party affiliated organization she founded eight years ago.
Boelkes is not a member of CDF-Nassau and said Jack Knocke, CDF-Nassau executive director, asked if his organization could have a table at the event. Knocke attended but declined to comment for this article.
Boelkes said she has investigated election fraud since 2020. “I don’t think it’s a Democrat or Republican issue. I think every American should be concerned about it. We all deserve to have our vote fairly counted.”
And Boelkes thinks Adkins and her staff are “doing a great job.” But she said she worked for IBM for several years and “knows how easy it is to program computers to do things people don’t know about.”
“I don’t think we’re a target here, but we have to be awake to the possibility that we could be,” she said.