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Going Undercover at the GOP's Voter Vigilante Project to Disrupt the Nov. Election

The Republican True the Vote project is a well-funded scheme with training sessions for activists across the country. Will it work?

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But True the Vote has not found as welcome a reception in Wisconsin, where the state board overseeing elections—composed of retired judges—rejected its effort to partner with them. This past winter, the group initially sought an official role validating the petitions calling for the gubernatorial recall. After that was rejected, several thousand volunteers across the country looked for errors on their home computers and flagged questionable signers. To be fair, examining 800,000 signatures and addresses in a month is a gigantic undertaking. Where their independent assessment became politically predictable was when they claimed that about 40 percent of the petitions they examined were incomplete or required “further investigation.” Of course, that figure brought the total number of legal signers—in their eyes—below the threshold to qualify the gubernatorial recall.

Following Whose Law?

It’s important to understand why True the Vote feels victimized and how that affects its politics, whether its results are amateurish or not. In Wisconsin, election officials give the benefit of the doubt to the voter when assessing voting documents and deciding disputes. That is true in many states. True the Vote takes the exact opposite approach. If there are any doubts, then in True the Vote’s world the burden of proof immediately shifts to the accused, not the accuser, to defend their voting rights. And if proof is not forthcoming, they believe that person’s voting credentials should be revoked.

Moreover, True the Vote’s assessment—and this is the case in its voter registration program and poll watcher trainings—is based on what they want to see in the law. But that’s not the same as what actually exists in the law. This split leads to a predictable collision between what they think they see, and what they think should be in law, and how local election officials process the same information and officially react to it. A Wisconsin Government Accountability Board report issued in May assessed their vetting of recall petitions. It concluded they “created results that were significantly less accurate, complete, and reliable than the review and analysis completed by the G.A.B.”

Another group affiliated with True the Vote, Minnesota Majority, used a similar method, also based on sloppy database analyses, and presented the Hennepin County Attorney (where Minneapolis is) with what it claimed were more than 1,500 instances of illegal felon voting during the November 2008 election. They claim Al Franken only won because felons illegally voted. That charge, which is repeated in Fund’s new book, was vigorously rejected this month by Hennepin County Prosecutor Mike Freeman. He said they brought 1,500 allegations -- but there was only sufficient proof to charge 38 people.

What is dangerous here is that the voter fraud movement’s leaders know these facts, but that’s not what they are telling the grassroots at meetings like Colorado’s summit. Instead, they’re deliberately misinforming local activists who care about elections, and encouraging them to take the law into their own hands when the courts fail them.

“You know the job of a recounter. You count, you count, you count until your candidate is ahead, and then you stop counting,” Fund glibly explained to the Denver conference room. Never mind that he described precisely what the Minnesota Majority did in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election—they stopped "disqualifying" petitions when they had the number they wanted.

"We know this," Fund thundered. "Eleven-hundred felons voted illegally. The margin was 312 votes. Minnesota Majority uncovered this. The media didn't. The prosecutors didn't. It had consequences. Al Franken went on to become the 60th vote in the U.S. Senate, in the majority that passed Obamacare."