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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Reading Guide To True The Vote, The Controversial Voter Fraud Watchdog

A Reading Guide To True The Vote, The Controversial Voter Fraud Watchdog

by Suevon Lee, ProPublica.

As Nov. 6 approaches, the efforts of True the Vote, a Texas anti-voter fraud group recently profiled by the New York Times, are gaining national attention.

Despite scant evidence of voter fraud, the group is laser-focused on weeding it out. It has pushed for voter-ID laws, voter roll purges and other controversial voting-related measures in a host of states. (Here is our guide to the voter ID controversy, where we note that evidence on both sides of the issue is lacking.)

True the Vote also has promised to deliver 1 million volunteer poll watchers on Election Day, though its resources appear to be quite modest.

Given its annual summits featuring conservative speakers and its hand in spurring voter integrity projects around the country, we thought we’d take a closer look at this activist group.

The basics

True the Vote is a grassroots initiative spun out of a Houston, Texas-based Tea Party organization called King Street Patriots. Its focus is on training volunteers to serve as poll watchers on Election Day and inspecting voter registration rolls for hints of inconsistency to flag to elections officials.

The group believes that citizen vigilance is necessary to protect elections from corruption and fraud.

Its leader, Catherine Engelbrecht, a former poll worker and suburban Texas mom, has repeatedly emphasized the group’s nonpartisanship. “This has absolutely nothing to do with race or creed or color or party or politics, it’s about principle,” Engelbrecht said earlier this year in an interview to NRA News, a channel of the National Rifle Association.

But many of the group’s tactics have come under fire for intimidating would-be voters and raising the specter of voter suppression. True the Vote has been backed mainly by Republican lawmakers and opposed by voting advocates that warn of minority disenfranchisement.

True the Vote did not respond to ProPublica’s request for comment about these allegations.

Last year, True the Vote and King Street Patriots jointly released a blueprint for legislation to change voter registration rules. The guide’s recommendations included requiring photo ID to vote, increasing penalties for forged or otherwise fraudulent voter registration applications, prohibiting same-day voter registration, allowing recording devices inside polling precincts and designating English as the “official language of Texas and the only language used on ballots.”

What about funding?

So far, there hasn’t been much. According to True the Vote’s tax forms, the group raised $65,000 in 2010 and $137,000 in 2011.

While much of the money has come from anonymous donors, the New York Times reported that True the Vote received a $35,000 donation in 2011 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a Wisconsin-based organization known to award grants to conservative groups.

According to the Times, True the Vote had to return the donation because it was given on the condition that the group’s application for tax-exempt status was approved by the IRS, which has not happened yet. We’ve asked True the Vote about this donation and it didn’t respond to a request for comment.