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ATLANTA — The Georgia State Elections Board on Tuesday dismissed three allegations of voter fraud by a conservative activist who falsely accused Atlanta-area residents of illegally casting other people’s ballots in the 2020 election.
The cases have drawn attention from conservative social media following the release this month of 2000 Mules, a film promoted by right-wing activist Dinesh D’Souza which claims thousands of such individuals have taken part in a major criminal conspiracy to collect dozens of them and return thousands of ballots in 2020.
The board’s action on Tuesday cast doubt on the premise of the film, which claims to use cellphone tracking data along with CCTV of people dropping ballots into dropboxes to make its case.
The film prominently features surveillance footage of a voter from Gwinnett County, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, who was the subject of one of the complaints dismissed Tuesday. The footage shows the voter in a white Ford SUV pulling up next to a ballot box, getting out of the truck and dropping five ballots into the box.
State investigators located the man, who told them he had cast ballots for members of his household — himself, his wife and three adult children — as permitted by state law. Investigators corroborated his story by looking up the voting records of all five family members and confirming that their ballots were deposited in that mailbox on the day the surveillance footage was recorded.
Investigators found similar circumstances in the other two complaints, noting that all ballots belonged to legal voters and deposited by qualified household members.
Elections Board Chairman Matt Mashburn thanked the activists who filed the complaint for spending many hours mulling over surveillance footage, although he noted that even if the ballots were collected illegally, the votes would still be legal would have been and it would have been correct for them to be counted.
Another board member, Edward Lindsey, blamed activists for publicizing allegations of criminal misconduct before the state’s investigation was complete.
“Claiming that someone has committed a crime carries with it some legal liability,” he said.
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In addition to investigating the three complaints, the State Department has issued subpoenas to True the Vote and the data company it hired to collect cell phone data featured in the film.
Both organizations missed the April 28 deadline to respond to the subpoenas, but Ryan Deutschland, general counsel to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), said Tuesday he was in ongoing talks with the group’s lawyers to review the evidence to obtain what the group claims to have.
True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gregg Phillips, who teamed with Engelbrecht to conduct the investigation featured in “2,000 Mules,” said one concern in handing over the evidence was the safety of a whistleblower who provided information.
“Demanding source names would be such an incredibly chilling effect,” Phillips said. “These are people we promised anonymity to.”
Phillips said the dismissal of the case involving surveillance footage of 2,000 Mules did not undermine the film’s overall credibility. “To us, that’s not a mule,” he said of the person depicted in the footage.
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David Cross, who presented the complaints reviewed by the board, did not dispute the board’s decision to dismiss the cases, but said he was disappointed with “the lack of communication and transparency” by the State Department and the investigator tasked with resolving cases.
“I think investigators decided to single out three of the 15 complaints I sent him,” Cross said.
Gardner reported from Washington.