True the vote

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True the Vote is a Houston based vote-monitoring initiative committed to stopping voter fraud with a "horrendous record of filing inaccurate voter registration challenges."[1] Many believe that the organization's activities are aimed at voter suppression and a right-wing agenda to further a new administration. TTV trains volunteers to monitor elections and report incidents of voter fraud. It also holds local rallies to promote "voter ID" laws, which it staunchly supports.[2] TTV has been accused of voter intimidation[3] and advancing hysterical claims about the pervasiveness of voter fraud.[4] TTV's current president is Catherine Englebrecht, who is also the founder of the King Street Patriots, a Tea Party 501(c)(4) group based in Texas.[5]

History

Catherine Englebrecht explains the history of True the Vote, and her reasons for beginning the initiative. "There are those places where you can hear crickets on the conservative side. We're not showing up to volunteer"

True the Vote claims to be nonpartisan, but began as an outgrowth of the King Street Patriots a nonprofit tea party organization mostly active in Texas. Several members of the King Street Patriots, including their president Catherine Englebrecht, were dissatisfied with the voting process in Harris County Texas during the 2008 election, especially the shortage of poll workers, which they believed "invited fraud and other problems at the polls." [6] During the 2010 election season, True the Vote trained over a thousand volunteers to monitor elections in Texas.


2010 Election Cycle

True the Vote's activities during the 2010 election cycle were largely confined to Harris County, the largest and poorest county in Texas. Ms. Engelbrecht claimed that the group settled on that particular district based on the thousands of addresses that housed six or more registered voters. [7] True the Vote claims that it uncovered numerous examples of voter fraud including claims like: "Vacant lots had several voters registered on them. An eight-bed halfway house had more than 40 voters registered at its address." [8] However, The Harris County assistant attorney could recall only one case where True the Vote had identified the address of a vacant lot where eight to ten people were registered to vote. [7] True the Vote found no hard evidence of intentional voter fraud. True the Vote considers their operations in Harris County a success, and claims to have recruited almost 1,000 volunteers to supervise polling places in Texas. [9]


True the Vote's trained "poll watchers" did, however, draw accusations of voter intimidation during the 2010 elections as they would hover behind people as they cast their ballots, get into election worker's faces, and block or disrupt lines of voters. [7] During the election, the Texas Democratic Party accused True the Vote of voter intimidation in largely Hispanic and African-American polling areas. [8] After the November 2010 elections, the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the group and its alleged voter intimidation efforts.

Voter Fraud and Voter I.D. Laws

True the Vote's website portrays voter fraud as largely a Democractic party problem. It routinely runs stories on election fraud being perpetrated by "liberals,"[10] or "Democrats" [11] but has, to date, never run a story on Republican or Conservative instances of voter fraud.

True the Vote's methods of "preventing voter fraud" are reminiscent of the controversial "ballot security" measures utilized by the Republican National Committee in the early 1980s.[12] Accused of violating the Voting Rights Act through its aggressive presence at polling locations and attempts to deter voters believed to be ineligible, the RNC settled a federal lawsuit by a consent decree agreeing to stop ballot security measures in minority precincts.[12] Similarly, many view True the Vote's activities as an attempt to build a nationwide army to suppress voters at the ballot, and True the Vote's main activities appear to be targeted at precincts such as Harris County, TX with large populations of minority voters.


Like many groups pushing for strict Voter ID Laws, True the Vote claims that Voter Fraud is widespread and deliberate, and largely substantiates these claims through individual testimony. [13] The results of serious policy studies into voter fraud reveal that intentional voter fraud is "even rarer than being struck by lightening or winning the mega-millions. [14] In a study conducted by the Department of Justice in 2005, the DOJ identified only 55 cases of convicted voter fraud throughout all 50 states during a 3 year period. [1] The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University compiled a study identifying the irrationality and rarity of actual voter fraud in 2006. [2] View Full Study Here

Englebrecht herself has testified before Congress on behalf of the King Street Patriots, claiming unsubstantiated instances of voter fraud that she and her trained volunteers witnessed. [15] These claims are not supported with hard evidence or factual research.

Hand in hand with these far-reaching claims of voter fraud, True the Vote argues for stronger Voter ID Laws in every State, and resists attempts to relax or remove Voter ID laws. On December 13th, 2011, they held a rally in Austin, Texas to support a stricter ID law passed earlier that year. [16] On January 20th, 2011 they held a similar rally to protest the invalidation of a South Carolina law requiring picture ID's at the polls (The Justice Department is empowered to invalidate voting laws in South Carolina due to a provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.) Both Rallies strongly criticized Attorney General Eric Holder.

In 2011, True the Vote posted an article on its website claiming that US attorney General Eric Holder supported a plan by the NAACP "to involve the United Nations in U.S. elections." referencing a protest the NAACP held across the street from the UN in December of 2011, and a related petition filed with the UN. Holder gave the protest and the petition no formal support, but True the Vote's press release made it seem like Holder was advocating direct UN involvement in American elections, asking ""Are you ready to have U.N. blue helmets outside your polling place?" This article earned True the Vote a "pants on fire" rating from Politifact.com. [17] Blue Helmets resembling those worn by the UN Peacekeeping forces are now commonly worn at True the Vote rallies.

True the Vote's 2012 national summit in Houston largely centered on claims of voter fraud. Speakers included ACORN "whistleblower" Anita Moncrief, Hans Von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, who insisted that "United States has a long history of voter fraud that has been documented by historians and journalists," and Fox News contributor Pat Caddell, who called opposition to voter ID Laws "the demise of our democracy" and "Slow motion suicide.” [18]

2011-2012 Wisconsin Recall Effort

In 2012, True the Vote joined several other Tea Party groups in "Verify the Recall", an effort that opposes the 2012 recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. True the Vote provided software which it had previously applied to check signatures in petitions in Texas. [19] In order to electronically check over 1 million petition signatures, which had previously been posted online by Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board [20] True the Vote recruited thousands of volunteers (mostly out of state) to manually enter signatures into True the Vote's electronic database. True the Vote claims to have recruited over 13,000 volunteers. [21] True the Vote has stated that this effort is both "nonpartisan" [22] and "not about politics" [23] but their website has run at least two stories suggesting that fraud is "rampant" in the recall effort, and frame the effort as decidedly political. In their own words "we should not believe the claims of union-supporters and anti-Walker operatives who say that they collected more than one million signatures on petitions to recall Governor Scott Walker." [24].

On February 28th, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called for the data gathered by the "Verify the Recall" effort to be used as an official challenge of the recall.[25] This data was gathered and compiled entirely by True the Vote. True the Vote's executive summary claimed that only 534,865 signatures gathered during the recall effort were valid. [26]. There is evidence that True the Vote used a flawed process to discount signatures on the ballot, and that most of the signatures they discounted are, in fact, accurate.[27]

In the days before the June 5th, 2012 recall election between Tom Barrett and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, True the Vote announced that they would be training volunteers to monitor polling places throughout Wisconsin, both online [28] and at a small number of locations throughout the state [29] True the Vote claimed that hundreds of people showed up for training and later monitored the polls in Wisconsin, [30] and that these monitors were necessary due to "discrepancies" in the recall petition process as well as "Wisconsin’s long history of election fraud." True the Vote pledged to man every polling place in Wisconsin on the day of the recall election, which drew sharp criticism from the Barret Campaign [31]

Throughout the Wisconsin recall, True the Vote has worked in concert with a group of local Tea Party groups including the "Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty" and "We the People of the Republic", which helped True the Vote launch its recall signature verification efforts. [32]. True the Vote's efforts during the recall election itself were conducted with an unnamed group of tea party organizations throughout Wisconsin.

2013 - True the Vote Files Suit Against IRS

On May 21, 2013, True the Vote filed a complaint [3] against the Internal Revenue Service to "force a decision in court" of whether its 3-year-pending application for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status should be approved. [33] This complaint arose from the IRS pattern of targeting organizations containing the words "Tea Party" or "patriot," which the IRS claimed was a method of centralizing a large influx of nonprofit applications between 2010 and 2012. [34] While the IRS did admit that mistakes were made in the categorization and review process, it is likely that True the Vote has rightly been scrutinized since its inception in 2010. [35] Many media sources identify 2012 as the year when targeted IRS investigations and abuses occurred, but True the Vote's status has been questioned since its inception in 2010. [36] While a 501(c)4 Tea Party group, such as the King Street Patriots may engage in some political activity, a 501(c)3 status is an absolute bar against any campaign or partisan activity. [37]

Is True the Vote really Nonpartisan?

Questions about whether True the Vote is really a "charity" refraining from political activity (necessary to be considered a 501(c)3 nonprofit) arise as early as its partisan roots. [35] A 2010 video announcing True the Vote's launch begins with right-wing activist David Horowitz telling the camera that "Republicans have to win by at least three percent in order to win an election," since Democrats are likely to case fraudulent votes. Further, True the Vote's activities largely consist of training Tea Partiers [38] to act as "poll watchers," some of whom have been accused of voter intimidation. [35]

True the Vote - Stop Voter Fraud

At the time of True the Vote's "poll watching" activities in Harris County, Texas during the November 2010 elections the organization was described as a "project" of the Houston-based Tea Party group the King Street Patriots. As a result of a 2010 lawsuit filed against the King Street Patriots by the state Democratic Party, a Texas judge ruled that the organization was an unregistered PAC rather than the nonprofit corporation that it claimed, and that it unlawfully provided in-kind donations to the state Republican Party. [39] The judge's ruling was based in part on True the Vote's voter intimidation practices and the parent organization's close ties to the state Republican Party.

In fact, in 2012, True the Vote contributed $5000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee.[4] This overtly political statement would legally, according to tax lawyers specializing in election law, disqualify a nonprofit from 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. [40] Additionally, the coordinator of Code Red USA has identified True the Vote as a partner in the nation-wide effort to flood the polling places with conservative observers. [7] In 2012, Democratic House Representative, Elijah E. Cummings, sent a letter to Catherine Engelbrecht requesting information about the data used by True the Vote to challenge voter registrations, the training provided to volunteers, and the method of choosing voter jurisdictions to monitor. [1] This request was made to investigate serious allegations of True the Vote's political agenda and possible criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Elijah E. Cummings, Letter to Catherine Engelbrecht, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, October 4, 2012.
  2. True the Vote, About, organizational website, accessed February 22, 2012.
  3. Rachel Slajda, DOJ Probes TX Voter Intimidation Complaints, Talking Points Memo "Muckraker," October 20, 2010.
  4. Ryan J. Reily, True the Vote says Eric Holder supports NAACP request for United Nations' involvement in U.S. elections, Politifact, January 27, 2012.
  5. True the Vote, About, organizational website, accessed February 22, 2012.
  6. True the Vote: history Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Stephanie Saul, Looking, Very Closely, for Voter Fraud: Conservative Groups Focus on Registration in Swing States, NY Times, September 16, 2012.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ryan J. Reily, In Texas' Biggest County, a Minority Registration Drive is Crippled by Fraud Allegations, Talking Points Muckraker, accessed February 22nd, 2012
  9. True the Vote: history Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  10. True the Vote: new yorkers were paid to commit voter fraud Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  11. True the Vote: True the Vote Joins Effort to True Wisconsin Recall Election Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  12. 12.0 12.1 Mariah Blake, The Ballot Cops, The Atlantic, September 19, 2012.
  13. True the Vote: Stories of Voter Fraud Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  14. Brian Tam,Voter ID Laws Study: Voter Fraud Even Rarer than Odds of Winning Mega Millions, Policymic, Accessed May 29, 2013.
  15. Youtube: Englebrecht testifies before congress
  16. Your News Now: AG Holder In Austin vows to enforce Civil rights protections Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  17. Politifact: True the Vote says Eric Holder Supports NAACP requests Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  18. Katie Pavlich: Restoring Integrity in America's Elections, the 2012 True the Vote Summit. Townhall.com, posted April 27th, 2012. Accessed June 6th, 2012.
  19. Carl Engleking: Tea Party Ready to do Battle in Court over Recall Signatures Menomonee Falls: Patch Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  20. Clay Barbour: GAB Posts Walker Recall Petitions Online Despite Privacy Concerns Wisconsin State Journal, Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  21. True the Vote: Volunteer Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  22. True the Vote: Volunteer Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  23. True the Vote: Main page Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  24. True the Vote: Wisc voter's name fraudulently signed four times Accessed February 22nd, 2012
  25. Walker Challenge Sworn Written Challenge of Governor Scott K. Walker
  26. True the Vote: Walker Recall Executive Summary
  27. Brenden Fischer and William Dooling: True the Vote or Skew the Vote PRWatch, Accessed March 2nd, 2012
  28. PRNewswire: True the Vote Provides Online Training For Wisconsin for Wisconsin. Published May 26th, 2012. Accessed June 6th, 2012
  29. PR Newswire: True the Vote & Wisconsin Coalition to Provide election ovserver training published May 16th, 2012. Accessed June 6th, 2012.
  30. truethevote.org, front page announcement, accessed June 6th, 2012.
  31. Allison Bauter: Barrett campaign criticizes recall election observers backed by Texas group. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Published June 4th, 2012. Accessed June 6th, 2012.
  32. Press Release: Verify the Recall Undaunted by the GAB, Accessed June 6th, 2012.
  33. True the Vote, [ http://www.truethevote.org/news/true-the-vote-files-suit-against-the-internal-revenue-service True the Vote Files Suit Against the Internal Revenue Service], May 21, 2013.
  34. Brett LoGiurato,IRS: We Targeted Conservative Groups with Extra Scrutiny--"Mistakes Were Made", Business Insider, May 10, 2013
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 Brendan Fischer, True the Vote, the Victim? Voter Vigilante Group Says IRS Targeted its Verify the Recall Effort in Wisconsin PRwatch.org, May 21, 2013.
  36. Brandon Darby, Multiple Agencies Involved With IRS in Intimidation, Breitbart, May 13, 2013.
  37. Internal Revenue Service Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501(c)(3) Organizations,IRS.gov, Accessed May 29, 2013
  38. Brentin Mock,How the Tea Party's Building a 'Poll Watcher' Network for November, Color Lines, August 23,2012.
  39. Joe Holley, Judge rules tea party group a PAC, not a nonprofit Chron, March 28, 2012.
  40. Chris Kromm,Nonpartisan? True the Vote Gave $5,000 to Republican State Leadership Committee, Facing South, Accessed May 29, 2013.