Election officials sue conservative voting group over refusal to produce ballot-harvesting evidence

Jul 12, 2023, 12:46 PM | Updated: 1:02 pm

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia State Election Board is asking a judge to order a conservative voting organization to produce information to help investigate its claims of ballot trafficking in the state.

The Texas-based True the Vote group filed complaints with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in November 2021, including one saying it had received “a detailed account of coordinated efforts to collect and deposit ballots in drop boxes across metro Atlanta” during the 2020 general election and in a runoff election in January 2021.

True the Vote’s assertions were relied upon heavily for the film “2000 Mules,” a widely debunked film by conservative pundit and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza. The film featured surveillance video from drop boxes in Atlanta’s suburbs showing people depositing multiple ballots. A State Election Board investigation found that those people were submitting ballots for themselves and family members who lived with them, which is allowed under Georgia law.

In the court filing Tuesday, the state attorney general’s office asked a Fulton County Superior Court judge to order True the Vote to comply with its subpoena.

“After multiple good faith efforts by the SEB (State Election Board) and its counsel to obtain the requested information and documents, True the Vote continues to indifferently vacillate between statements of assured compliance and blanket refusals,” leaving the election board with no choice but to turn to the courts, the filing says.

Two attorneys who have represented True the Vote in the matter did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Wednesday.

True the Vote’s complaint said its investigators “spoke with several individuals regarding personal knowledge, methods, and organizations involved in ballot trafficking in Georgia.” One of those people, referred to in the complaint only as John Doe, “admitted to personally participating and provided specific information about the ballot trafficking process.” Doe is alleged to have outlined a “network of non-governmental organizations” that paid people to collect and deliver absentee ballots.

The group said it was able to confirm patterns of activity to support the allegations using surveillance video and geospatial mobile device information. In a September 2021 letter, Vic Reynolds, who was director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation at the time, said the evidence produced did not amount to proof of ballot harvesting.

After receiving the group’s complaints two months later, Raffensperger’s office opened an investigation. Investigators in April 2022 issued subpoenas to True the Vote for relevant documents and information, including the identity and contact information for people who True the Vote said provided details about the alleged ballot trafficking.

A lawyer for True the Vote in May 2023 wrote a letter to a state attorney saying that a complete response to the subpoenas would require the organization to identify people to whom it had promised confidentiality and that it could not do that. The lawyer wrote that True the Vote was withdrawing its complaints.

State Election Board Chair William Duffey responded in a letter two weeks later, saying that the board’s investigation into True the Vote’s “serious allegations” was ongoing. Therefore, he wrote, he would not allow the complaints to be withdrawn and asked the state attorney general’s office to seek enforcement of the subpoenas.

A lawyer for True the Vote in June wrote in a letter that True the Vote had already provided some of the information requested to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation but declined to provide the identities and contact information for people described in its complaints “because doing so may put those persons in physical or personal jeopardy.”

One man falsely accused in the film of committing ballot fraud has filed a still-pending federal lawsuit against True the Vote, D’Souza and others. Surveillance video in the film shows Mark Andrews, his face blurred, depositing five ballots in a drop box in downtown Lawrenceville, a suburb northeast of Atlanta, ahead of the 2020 election. A voiceover by conservative pundit and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza says: “What you are seeing is a crime. These are fraudulent votes.”

A state investigation found that Andrews was dropping off ballots for himself and his three adult children.

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Election officials sue conservative voting group over refusal to produce ballot-harvesting evidence