Less than a month before Election Day, the “election integrity” group True The Vote is battered, bewildered and disappointed. The upcoming election landscape will hardly resemble the “ground war” they were hoping for. Voter fraud as a thing has been exposed by civil rights watchdogs and a wide range of journalists as pure conspiracy theory. And civil rights legal advocates have at least temporarily blocked all of the most strict voter ID laws for which they fought so hard.
But while True the Vote is down, they’re certainly not out. The group still hopes to make an impact in November, though they’ve downgraded their self-descriptors from “armies” prepared for “ground wars” to “grannies with clipboards.” Besides their cheering for billboards warning that voter fraud is a felony targeted in poor, black neighborhoods in Ohio, their last operative hope is to shake down states, including Ohio, that don’t comply with their purging demands with frivolous lawsuits.
A true army, encompassing journalists, lawyers, election protection volunteers, civil rights activists and the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will be watching the watchers throughout early voting periods and on Election Day. The real question now is, if things go awry with any of the clipboard grannies, will True the Vote have its volunteers’ backs? If recent news reports are any indication, it sounds like the volunteers True the Vote has recruited will be on their own.
True the Vote attorney Brock Akers told The American Prospect’s Abby Rapaport that True the Vote has “no relationship with any other groups and [is] not aware of others describing themselves as ‘empowered.’”
Akers was flat out lying. Colorlines created a map that points to no less than two dozen groups True the Vote is aware of. One of those groups, the Virginia Voters Alliance, has a YouTube video posted where one of its leaders clearly spells out the training relationship, and also spells out why True the Vote told them not to use their name—“because of all of the lawsuits they had been getting in Houston,” VVA’s Reagan George explains.
This past weekend, True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht presented in Arizona at FreePAC, a gathering of thousands organized by the conservative non-profit FreedomWorks for “grassroots training” on “best strategies” on topics like making “voter ID calls.” Engelbrecht encouraged the fired-up crowd to sign up for True the Vote’s poll training, for both poll worker and watcher positions. Two more FreePACs are scheduled this month in Florida and Illinois.
These kinds of associations place True the Vote’s partisanship in further question—most recently, the non-partisan assertion was undermined when Facing South revealed a $5000 donation True the Vote made to the Republican State Leadership Committee. But the ties to FreedomWorks also show that True the Vote has continued access to the voluminous networks and resources of much larger conservative political action groups. In battleground states like Colorado and Florida, where they have sizable representation, that’s enough to make an impact on elections there.