Voter Vigilante group on trial in Georgia

Earlier this month a US District Court Judge in Georgia said that a lawsuit brought by the voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight Action against True the Vote, a Texas group founded by Tea Party crusader Catherine Engelbrecht will be heading to trial. The Fair Fight suit looks to stop True the Vote’s program of organizing citizen voter challenges under the Georgia voter suppression law, SB202.

In Greg Palast’s film, Vigilante: Vote Suppression Hitman that I co-produced, we exposed such challengers, like Pam Reardon who you can see in this video clip reacting to Palast confronting her with evidence that her accusations of voter fraud were false. 

The suit contends that True the Vote’s over 300,000 citizen voter challenges in Georgia constitute intimidation under Section 11b of the Voting Rights Act. Section 11b states, “No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote.” Voter challenges in Georgia become part of the public record once submitted and are regularly published by county election boards. This is an inherent part of True the Vote and other so-called “voter integrity” groups plan ‘prove’ that voter fraud is in actuality a problem. People see the large lists of their fellow Georgians as ‘proof’ of the crime happening – when in fact it’s nothing more than poorly gathered data from National Change of Address lists, screenshots or in just Facebook comments. 

As part of the show of force that True the Vote planned in the lead up to the 2021 Senate runoff they bragged about enlisting Navy SEALS and other military to poll watch. Catherine Engelbrecht also talked of a one-million-dollar bounty for evidence of voter fraud. The bounty would later be clarified as a fund for legal issues that would inevitably happen as citizens turned against each other in a sort of southern version of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” 

Uzoma Nkwonta, a lawyer with Fair Fight Action told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “This is objectively intimidating. Some voters will opt not to jump through these hoops and will not have the resources to overcome these challenges.” 

In Judge Jones’ summary judgment, he noted that True the Vote’s expert, Gregg Phillips (also seen in Dinesh D’Souza’s 2000 Mules) used proprietary methods to find voters that he claimed should no longer be on the voter rolls, not specifying what those are beyond NCOA data, “multiple data files (not just the NCOA data) and algorithms.” Phillips “candidly admits” though that “there will be voters on the challenge list that are eligible to vote.”

Fair Fight Action’s data expert Dr. Kenneth Meyer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found “conclude[d] that True the Vote’s challenges were skewed toward counties with higher percentages of Black voters.” He explained that “27.3% of individuals overall in the challenge file [were] African American, [but] 40.3% of the individuals in duplicated records are African American.” 

One of True the Vote’s defenses in this case, and for that matter all “voter integrity” advocates defense of these extreme voter suppression methods is something called “voter dilution.” Essentially if people are voting illegally (even if that is wholly unproven) it dilutes legal votes, and thus is a 14th Amendment violation. Judge Jones smacked that claim down. Saying that not only does it not fit the description of voter dilution they “have not made any effort to argue or prove these requirements.” 

As of the time of this writing, there has been no date set for trial. Earlier this week True the Vote’s founder Catherine Engelbrecht sent out an e-mail to her supporters claiming the trial “is a huge opportunity for us to tell the full story of what led True the Vote to help electors file voter record challenges in Georgia.” Later that day in a live stream on the website Locals she announced launching a new site that would bring together people around the country to work as voter challengers in their own states beyond Georgia. 

In 2022 Judge Jones found against Fair Fight in their case against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over the purge of nearly 100,000 voter registrations. He did to his decision in that case that Georgia must take “additional diligent and reasonable efforts” to make people aware of their registrations being canceled. Georgia responded by creating SB202. 

True the Vote is also the organization that claimed thousands of people committed election fraud as part of a vast conspiracy portrayed in the documentary (I use that term lightly) 2000 Mules. The information in that film has been thoroughly debunked by multiple news organizations

Even Fox News refused to have the producer/co-director Dinesh D’Souza to discuss it. 

The years since Trump left office have not been great for True the Vote, in 2020 one of their largest funders sued to get their $2.5 million donation back from them. Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips both spent some time in a Texas jail last year not releasing the name of a “person of interest in the defamation and computer hacking case against them.”

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