- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Georgia and Wisconsin are advancing probes into accusations of widespread illegal ballot harvesting in the 2020 presidential election, digging deeper into voter fraud claims more than a year after President Biden took office.

The investigations are examining reports of payments to people who collected ballots, “mules” dropping multiple ballots at different drop boxes, coercion of voters at nursing homes to hand over ballots and bribery of local election officials to boost Democratic turnout.

Georgia election officials ramped up an investigation of ballot harvesting — when a third party collects and submits a voter’s ballot — by authorizing subpoenas to carry out their probe.

Election board investigators will use the subpoena to try to gain an interview with an anonymous witness who said he was paid $10 for each ballot he delivered to various drop boxes. That would violate a Georgia law that allows only a voter or close relative to submit a ballot.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who oversees the state’s elections, vowed to get to the bottom of any accusation of ballot harvesting. 

“On day one at the Secretary of State’s office, I fought to outlaw ballot harvesting in Georgia and continue to advocate for a national prohibition. I am determined to investigate any evidence that it may have occurred. Our investigation will be thorough and follow every lead until anyone guilty of ballot harvesting is justly punished,” Mr. Raffensperger said in a statement to The Washington Times. 

In Wisconsin, Republican state lawmakers are examining claims of illegal ballot harvesting, voter coercion in nursing homes and outright bribery by private groups seeking to drive up Democratic voter registration. 

The lawmakers have invited top representatives from the conservative election integrity organization True the Vote to testify at an election hearing on Thursday. True the Vote said there is evidence of widespread voter fraud in six states during the 2020 election.

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht is slated to testify before the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections. One Republican said she is expected to “drop a bomb” about significant evidence that people were paid to stuff drop boxes in Wisconsin in 2020.

Mrs. Engelbrecht told The Washington Times that she will present geospatial data, a form of advanced and detailed cellphone tracking, from Green Bay, Milwaukee and Racine counties. The data shows evidence of 100 so-called traffickers in each county who visited 10 or more ballot drop boxes in the two weeks before the 2020 election. 

Mrs. Engelbrecht said the data found 100 people in Milwaukee County alone “for whom that pattern fit, going to 10 or more drop boxes.” 

The effort to reexamine the 2020 presidential election, she said, is to strengthen election integrity, not to relitigate Mr. Biden’s victory. 

“We just let the data tell the tale,” Mrs. Engelbrecht said. “Ultimately, are these crimes we are looking at? What we can clearly see from the pattern is there is an abuse of drop boxes that suggest you should not have drop boxes.”

Wisconsin does not ban ballot harvesting. It is one of 13 states that don’t specify whether someone other than the voter can return a ballot, according to data compiled by the website Ballotpedia.

Wisconsin’s Republican-led Legislature passed a bill in 2021 to restrict the practice, but Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, vetoed the measure.

Georgia tightened the state’s ballot harvesting law in 2019 after 11 other states limited ballot returns to the voter, an immediate family member or another household member.

Another 24 states and the District of Columbia allow the voter to designate someone to return their ballot. In Alabama, only the voter can return a ballot.

True the Vote has not acquired any video evidence of ballot stuffing in Wisconsin, but some low-quality video in other states shows suspected ballot traffickers stuffing drop boxes. In Georgia, she said, 242 people were tracked visiting multiple ballot drop boxes. 

The state-run investigations in Wisconsin and Georgia gain steam despite criticism that such probes fuel unrealistic beliefs that widespread fraud will be proved and Mr. Biden’s election victory will be overturned.

Former President Donald Trump is cheering on the state investigations. He claims Democrats stole the 2020 election. Mr. Trump told supporters at a rally this month that he won the election, although the official tally shows he lost by more than 7 million votes. 

In Wisconsin, a statewide recount and several court rulings have upheld the 2020 election results showing Mr. Biden won the state by 21,000 votes, or less than 1% of votes cast.

Georgia conducted two recounts that found Mr. Biden defeated Mr. Trump by roughly 12,000 votes, which is also less than 1% of the votes cast.

Election skepticism has persisted, partly because of claims by True the Vote and others of widespread and coordinated fraud.

True the Vote’s website prominently advertises an election fraud documentary it produced with conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza that is scheduled for release in May.

A trailer for the film teases “explosive new surveillance footage of ballot drop boxes” and shows video frames of “one mule … who made 53 trips to 23 drop boxes.” Mr. D’Souza says the film tracked 2,000 “mules” engaged in ballot harvesting “in all the key states [where] the election was decided,” including Georgia and Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos commissioned a state probe into 2020 election irregularities that found evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state’s nursing home and rehabilitation facilities. The report, issued this month by the special counsel’s office, also accused an outside group sponsored by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of bribing local election officials to drive up voter turnout in Democratic strongholds.

Mr. Vos, a Republican, met last week with a group demanding that Wisconsin officials decertify the 2020 election results, provoking outrage from Democrats despite Mr. Vos’ repeated assurances that decertification cannot happen.

“Basically, they are trying to convince us of the fraud that occurred,” Mr. Vos told reporters after the meeting. “I already believe there is fraud that occurred.”

Democrats say the special counsel’s report is partisan. They note that chief investigator and former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is a Trump supporter who declared the election stolen before Mr. Vos appointed him to lead the probe. 

State Rep. Mark Spreitzer told Wisconsin’s WISN that he is concerned about the investigation and accused Mr. Vos of “trying to throw red meat to his base.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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