OPINION: Election deniers’ murky balderdash comes clear under oath

The movie "2000 Mules" includes video surveillance of a Fulton County ballot drop box that shows a man delivering ballots at night during the 2020 presidential election.

Credit: 2000 Mules

Credit: 2000 Mules

The movie "2000 Mules" includes video surveillance of a Fulton County ballot drop box that shows a man delivering ballots at night during the 2020 presidential election.

Don’t you just love when some bold crusaders wade into the morass and level damning and outrageous charges, only to slink off in simpering silence when they’re called to back up their claims with real evidence?

Well, that very well seems to be the case with True the Vote, the right-wing election-denying organization from Texas whose “research” was the basis of the conspiracy-driven movie “2000 Mules.”

Back in 2021, True the Vote made some explosive allegations to Georgia state election officials, claiming a shady netherworld of activists paid a network of “mules” to deliver stacks of absentee ballots.

The organization alleged they had uncovered a plot where 2,000 of these fraudsters operated in the swing-states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This then led to the breathless movie by conservative manure peddler Dinesh D’Souza.

Darned if the libs pulled one off and stole an election, was the film’s underlying premise. It was swallowed whole by a gullible public wanting to believe the Dems would stop at nothing to remove the Orange Man from office.

In Georgia, the True the Vote conspiracists were very particular in their allegations in a November 2021 complaint to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. He, of course, is the official who had earlier pushed back against outgoing President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure him into finding Trump some votes.

A voter places his absentee ballot inside a drop box on the second day of early voting at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections building on Oct. 13, 2020, in Lawrenceville, Georgia. An auditor from Gwinnett County, Mark Andrews, who was falsely accused of election fraud in the film "2000 Mules" is suing the movies makers, Dinesh D'Souza and True the Vote, alleging they lied to advance a phony narrative at his expense. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

The complaint — later amplified in the Mule flick — made it sound like True the Vote investigators had the goods. There were cellphone tracking records that seemed to locate an army of operatives doing their dirty deeds, and there was grainy security cam footage showing these ne-er-do-wells stuffing the ballot box.

In the complaint, True the Vote was very specific that the org had located a “John Doe” who told them about “a network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that worked together to facilitate a ballot trafficking scheme in Georgia.”

In fact, they said, “John” was just one of many in on the ruse.

Hmmm, state officials said, you have our interest.

True the Vote’s allegations read like a B-rated potboiler: “John Doe’s assignment included collecting ballots, both from voters in targeted neighborhoods and from NGOs that had their own ballot collection processes, delivering those ballots to other NGOs, picking up designated ballot bundles from the same group of NGOs, and depositing ballots into drop boxes spanning six counties in the metro Atlanta area.”

Mr. Doe said the mules would usually drop off five to 20 absentee ballots at drop boxes, shoot a photo of the box to prove they delivered the votes and get 10 bucks for each ballot.

Do this enough and — Voila! — Joe Biden’s your new president.

When the State Election Board pushed for real info, like being able to talk to John Doe, the True the Voters equivocated. The organization indicated that “John” was scared, so the Election Board, then led by former federal Judge William Duffey, told those making the allegations they’d be sensitive to his identity.

Later, True the Vote said they wanted to dismiss their complaint.

Chairman William S. Duffey Jr. (center) speaks during the State Election Board meeting at Mercer University in Macon on Tuesday, Feb 7, 2023. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

In June, the organization’s attorney, Michael Wynne of Texas, responded that True the Vote “did not retain contact information for this individual and have no way of verifying the individual’s identity.”

Not so fast, said Duffey. The group had made some serious — and specific — complaints. He insisted that he wanted to see what they had.

In July, the Election Board sued the conspiracy-manufacturing outfit to give up their evidence of fraud, which had by now been disregarded by just about any rational, fact-based person.

“It’s long past time to put up or shut up,” Raffensperger said.

Well, True the Vote chose the latter. Reality finally sank in on the balderdash peddlers. This was now a court case, with possible sanctions for those who knowingly serve up false info.

Last week, my colleague Mark Niesse broke a story saying True the Vote had backed away from their bombshell.

The organization, in a recent court filing, said it “does not have in its possession, custody, or control, identity and contact information for John Doe or any such items concerning him.”

In essence, the group doesn’t know the identity of its own whistle blower.

Perhaps they heard it second hand. Or maybe just made it up.

I called their attorney mentioned above, and he did not respond.

Duffey, who has since left the Election Board, told me: “It sounds like from their response that the information doesn’t exist.”

He wondered if there should be some follow-up from the state to see if attorneys had knowingly pushed known nonsense.

The Attorney General’s office did not want to comment on whether there could be any sanctions coming forth.

Well, at least the truth got out. Again.

Election Board member Ed Lindsey, a former GOP legislator, noted that the “mules” theory got lots of traction.

I asked if this may alleviate some of that.

“There’s an old adage that if facts and reason are not the basis of your opinion then giving you facts and reason will not change it,” he said.

Welcome to election season in Georgia.