The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Georgia elections board dismisses allegations of ballot harvesting

One of the disproved complaints is featured in the movie ‘2,000 Mules,’ which is circulating among conservative activists.

In this Nov. 24, 2020 photo, Cobb County election officials prepare for a recount in Marietta, Ga. (Mike Stewart/AP)
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ATLANTA — The Georgia State Elections Board on Tuesday dismissed three allegations of ballot fraud brought by a conservative activist who falsely accused residents of the Atlanta area of illegally turning in other people’s ballots in the 2020 election.

The cases have gained attention across conservative social media following the release this month of “2000 Mules,” a movie promoted by right-wing activist Dinesh D’Souza that alleges that thousands such individuals participated in a vast criminal conspiracy to collect and return tens of thousands of ballots in 2020.

The board’s action Tuesday cast doubt on the premise of the movie, which claims to use cellphone tracking data along with video surveillance of individuals depositing ballots in drop boxes to make its case.

The movie prominently features surveillance footage of a voter from Gwinnett County, Ga., outside of Atlanta, who was the subject of one of the complaints dismissed Tuesday. In the footage, the voter can be seen pulling up in a white Ford SUV alongside a ballot drop box, emerging from the truck and depositing five ballots into the box.

State investigators tracked down the man, who told them that he had dropped off ballots for members of his household — himself, his wife and three adult children — as allowed under state law. The investigators corroborated his story by looking up the voting records of all five family members and confirming that their ballots were deposited in that drop box on the day the surveillance footage was recorded.

The investigators found similar circumstances with the other two complaints, noting that all the ballots belonged to legal voters and were deposited by qualifying household members.

The chairman of the elections board, Matt Mashburn, thanked the activists who filed the complaint for spending many hours poring over surveillance footage, though he noted that even if the ballots had been harvested illegally, the votes would still be legal and it would have been proper for them to be counted.

Another board member, Edward Lindsey, chastised the activists for publishing accusations of criminal wrongdoing before the state’s investigation was complete.

“Claiming someone has committed a crime carries with it some legal liability,” he said.

Georgia county under scrutiny after claim of post-election breach

In addition to investigating the three complaints, the secretary of state’s office has issued subpoenas to True the Vote and the data company it hired to collect the cellphone data presented in the movie.

Both organizations missed the April 28 deadline to respond to the subpoenas, but Ryan Germany, general counsel to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), said Tuesday he is in ongoing talks with the group’s lawyers to obtain the evidence the group claims to possess.

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gregg Phillips, who partnered with Engelbrecht to conduct the investigation featured in “2,000 Mules,” said one concern about turning over the evidence is the safety of a whistleblower who supplied information.

“Demanding names of sources would have such an incredibly chilling effect,” Phillips said. “These are people we promised anonymity to.”

Phillips said the dismissal of the case involving surveillance footage featured in “2,000 Mules” does not undermine the movie’s overall credibility. “That’s not a mule to us,” he said of the individual depicted in the footage.

As GOP lawmakers push for more election fraud charges, prosecutors find few cases

David Cross, who brought the complaints reviewed by the board, did not dispute the board’s decision to dismiss the cases but said he was disappointed in “the lack of communication and lack of transparency” from the secretary of state’s office and investigator assigned to resolve the cases.

“I think the investigators chose to cherry-pick three of the 15 complaints that I sent him,” Cross said.

Gardner reported from Washington.

The 2022 Midterm Elections

Georgia runoff election: Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) won re-election in the Georgia Senate runoff, defeating Republican challenger Herschel Walker and giving Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate for the 118th Congress. Get live updates here and runoff results by county.

Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.

What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign shortly after the midterms. Here are the top 10 2024 presidential candidates for the Republicans and Democrats.