True the Vote
|Formation||November 30, 2009|
|Purpose||Preventing voter fraud|
|Headquarters||Houston, Texas, U.S.|
True the Vote (TTV) is a conservative vote-monitoring organization based in Houston, Texas whose stated objective is stopping voter fraud. The organization supports voter ID laws and trains volunteers to be election monitors and to spot and bring attention to suspicious voter registrations that its volunteers believe delegitimize voter eligibility. The organization's tag line is "If you see something at the polls that just doesn't seem right, record it." True the Vote's current president is Catherine Engelbrecht.
True the Vote is an offshoot of the King Street Patriots, a nonprofit Tea Party organization founded by Engelbrecht and active mostly in Texas. Several members of the King Street Patriots, including Engelbrecht, its president, 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," and they founded the second group in summer 2009.
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True the Vote's website runs stories on election fraud being perpetrated by "liberals" and "Democrats". The organization maintains a list of "stories of voter fraud", including two videos featuring J. Christian Adams.
The organization was a vocal critic of Obama Administration actions and nominations, particularly in late 2014.
2010 election cycle
In August 2010, Harris County Voter Registrar Leo Vasquez told ABC news (Houston affiliate KTRK), "We have evidence indicating violations of the Texas election code, falsified documents being submitted to this governmental office and possibly violations of federal election laws." His office's investigation found 1,597 instances of multiple applications for the same voter, 1,014 applications for folks already registered to vote, 325 for teenagers who are too young to register and 25 from folks who admitted on the application they are not even US citizens. Vasquez said all the applications were gathered by paid deputies with the group Houston Votes.[clarification needed] Of the 25,000 applications the group filed in the months of June, July, and August 2010, only 7,193 were actually for new voters.
True the Vote's activities during the 2010 election cycle were largely confined to Harris County, Texas. True the Vote asserted that it uncovered numerous examples of voter fraud, stating, for example: "Vacant lots had several voters registered on them. An eight-bed halfway house had more than 40 voters registered at its address." During the election, the Texas Democratic Party accused True the Vote of voter intimidation in largely Hispanic and African-American polling areas.
2011-12 Wisconsin recall effort
In 2012, True the Vote joined several other Tea Party groups in "Verify the Recall", an effort that opposed the attempted recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. True the Vote provided software that it had previously applied to check signatures in petitions in Texas. In order to electronically check over 1 million petition signatures, which had previously been posted online by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, True the Vote recruited 17,000 volunteers (mostly out of state) to manually enter signatures into True the Vote's electronic database. True the Vote says it recruited over 13,000 volunteers. True the Vote's website has run at least two stories suggesting that fraud is "rampant" in the recall effort, and frame the effort as decidedly political, saying that "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.".
On February 28, Walker called for the data gathered by the "Verify the Recall" effort to be used as an official challenge of the recall. This information was gathered and compiled entirely by True the Vote. True the Vote's executive summary contended that only 534,865 signatures gathered during the recall effort were valid. There are claims by Progressive publications that True the Vote used a flawed process to discount signatures on the ballot, and that most of the signatures it discounted are, in fact, accurate but few actual errors have been reported.
In the days before the June 5, 2012 recall election, True the Vote announced that it would be training volunteers to monitor polling places throughout Wisconsin, both online and at a small number of locations throughout the state True the Vote stated that hundreds of people showed up for training and later monitored the polls in Wisconsin, and that these monitors were necessary because of "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.
Throughout the Wisconsin recall, True the Vote 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. True the Vote's efforts during the recall election itself were conducted with an unnamed group of tea party organizations throughout Wisconsin.
Congressional investigation, 2012~
In October 2012, Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat initiated an investigation into alleged voter suppression by True the Vote. Cummings wrote a letter to Engelbrecht, raising questions about voter challenges in Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Maryland. He indicated that if the efforts to challenge voter registrations were "intentional, politically motivated and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights." In February 2014, True The Vote filed complaints against Mr. Cummings including charges of ethics violations after Internal Revenue Service (IRS) emails released by the House Oversight Committee showed staff working for Democratic Ranking Member Elijah Cummings communicated with the IRS multiple times between 2012 and 2013 about True the Vote. Prior to this revelation, Cummings had maintained that at no time was he nor his staff in communication with IRS officials regarding True the Vote. Information contained within the emails show that the IRS and Cummings' staff asked for nearly identical information from True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht about her organization, implying coordination and improper sharing between the two groups of confidential taxpayer information.
Alleged forgery of signatures in Ohio
In 2012, True the Vote applied to the Franklin County Board of Elections (FCBOE) in Ohio to place polling observers in Columbus area districts with large African-American populations. A November 6, 2012, news report in the Cleveland Leader stated that the FCBOE had determined that five of the six signatures on the application were likely forged. Because this type of fraud is a fifth degree felony, the FCBOE declared that an investigation would be conducted after the election.
Catherine Engelbrecht responded to the allegations by saying that the signatures on the initial form were genuine, and, following Franklin County instructions, were copied onto subsequent forms. She said that prior to the placement of observers, the candidates rescinded their approval following threats of lawsuits. Engelbrecht said that the allegation of forgery was "blatant slander", and that William Anthony, the director of the FCBOE, was formerly the chairman of the county Democratic Party. She requested that Anthony release the timeline of events surrounding the allegations and clarify whether there was any coordination with the Democratic Party.
Other activity, 2011-12
On December 13, 2011, it held a rally in Austin, Texas to support a stricter ID law passed earlier that year. The organization held a national summit in Houston largely centered on charges of voter fraud. Speakers included ACORN whistle-blower 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 President Jimmy Carter's pollster and Fox News contributor Pat Caddell, who called opposition to voter ID Laws "the demise of our democracy" and "Slow motion suicide.”
In February 2013, True the Vote filed a federal lawsuit against St. Lucie County elections supervisor Gertrude Walker in Florida, claiming that she had failed to turn over public records related to the US House of Representatives election race between Allen West (R) and Patrick Murphy (D): The latter had won by a margin of 2,429 votes. They stated that withholding the documents violated the 1993 Motor Voter Law, which grants them permission to "publicly inspect and examine all voter registration and election records" in question.
In May 2013, it was revealed that True the Vote was one of the groups allegedly subjected to additional scrutiny by the IRS in applying for tax-exempt status. True the Vote told Breitbart.com that new revelations that the IRS was discriminating in 2012 against conservative non-profits came as no shock to them. Catherine Engelbrecht said, "We applied for nonprofit C-3 status early in 2010 [ . . ] Since that time the IRS has run us through a gauntlet of analysts and hundreds of questions over and over again. They've requested to see each and every tweet I've ever tweeted or Facebook post I've ever posted. They also asked to know every place I've ever spoken since our inception and to whom, and everywhere I intend to speak in the future. We've met all requirements, responded to everything, and provided case law in such areas where appropriate [ . . . ] The IRS treatment of us lends to the appearance of a politically motivated abuse of power and an assault on free speech."
According to the National Review, since founding True the Vote, Engelbrecht and her husband say they and their business, Engelbrecht Manufacturing, have also been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Englebrecht has stated that she "absolutely" thinks she was targeted because she "worked against voter fraud."
On May 21, 2013, the organization filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over claims that the agency delayed the determination process for its application for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, publicly claiming, "We’ve been waiting for three years to receive a decision from the IRS about our tax exempt status. After answering hundreds of questions and producing thousands of documents, we’re done waiting. The IRS does not have the power to pocket veto our application. Federal law empowers groups like True the Vote to force a decision in court – which is precisely what we aim to do.”
In July 2013, Mother Jones said that the magazine had obtained documents indicating that Engelbrecht was a member of the Groundswell Group, a conservative group of journalists and activists that meet secretly to stay consistent on messaging. The group includes Virginia Thomas, wife of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, along with journalists from the National Review, Breitbart News, and the Washington Examiner.
On February 6, 2014, Engelbrecht testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at a hearing about the IRS's targetings. She alleged that ranking member Elijah Cummings had acted to "demonize and intimidate" her organization by sending it letters that duplicated IRS requests and by appearing on cable news to "publicly defame" her and True the Vote. Based on those allegations, Engelbrecht filed a formal ethics complaint against Cummings.
In September 2014, TTV celebrated U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's intention to resign his position stating, "It is our hope that Mr. Holder's announcement marks an end to the radical, racialist assault on voters' rights across America."
In October 2014, True the Vote's lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service in response to the IRS targeting scandal was dismissed in the Washington D.C. District Court. The organization announced on December 18 that it had filed a notice of appeal for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
In November 2014, the organization denounced President Barack Obama's executive order for deferred action on deportations, claiming the move would cause an "intentional overwhelm" of state agencies and would potentially compromise voter rolls. True the Vote attacked a presidential nominee for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in a fundraising letter dated December 19, 2014, labeling Matthew S. Butler a "book burner" for having recently served as the CEO of Media Matters for America.
In January 2015, True the Vote Founder Catherine Engelbrecht was called before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary during the confirmation hearing for Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch, where she questioned whether the proposed change in leadership would affect the larger Justice Department: "Attorney General Eric Holder has created a radical, racialist agency that metes out social justice on an as-needed basis to promote the advancement of a progressive agenda. Will Ms. Lynch follow in his footsteps or, will she turn in a new direction?"
The Internet outlet Talking Points Memo has criticized True the Vote for engaging in what it says is caging, voter intimidation, and advancing statements about the pervasiveness of voter fraud that it says are unfounded. In 2012, Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings opened an investigation into the organization. In May 2013, following the IRS targeting controversy, Engelbrecht stated True the Vote was subject to additional scrutiny in applying for tax-exempt status.
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