Their goal in 2012 is to train observers to "document voter irregularities" in precincts across the country, in an effort to establish that strict national laws must be put in place in order to limit how you can vote, when you can vote, and most importantly, who is allowed to vote. Brentin Mock at Colorlines takes a closer look at the group's emergence on the national stage.
True the Vote’s emergence wasn’t an isolated event. Its rapid rise occurred in harmony with hundreds of other Tea Party groups across the nation, dozens of which exist in Texas alone and many of which have been “empowered” by True the Vote for “election integrity” kibitzing. It has plugged itself into an existing infrastructure of influential far right organizations hellbent on criminalizing abortion, banishing gun control, repealing the Affordable Care Act—and now, on intimidating would-be voters.
These alliances have helped expand True the Vote’s range of influence over election activities. Today it boasts having trainees in 35 states, people who’ll spot “irregularities” and chalk them up as “fraud” and then use that tally to justify new voting restrictions. As one strategy, the group buys voter rolls from states and counties, then disseminates the lists to thousands of largely unsupervised volunteers, who are urged to submit to election officials names from the rolls that may be improperly registered.
The group has involved itself in every high-stakes electoral drama this year, from the Wisconsin governor recall election to Florida’s controversial “non-citizen” purging. True the Vote now turns its attention to the main event this fall, gearing up for an Election Day showdown that its leaders hope will establish voter fraud, rather than voter suppression as a dire threat to democracy.
And that's the key, using contacts provided by the heavy conservative hitters on the right: the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers, right-to-life groups, and more in order to get in touch with and train sympathetic election officials to "stop fraud".
These relationships with elected officials are perhaps the most troubling ones in the impressive national network that True the Vote has since built. The group claims non-partisanship, which is an important assertion to avoid legal entanglement. But that’s dubious given its affiliations and activities.
True the Vote encourages recruits to “build relationships with election administrators” because “they control the access to the vote,” as [True The Vote elections coordinator Bill] Ouren told a gathering in Houston. In 2010, the group was able to get a list of voter registration data from Republican Harris County registrar Leo Vasquez, who reportedly refused the same to the Democratic Party, for which the party sued. When the King Street Patriots submitted to him their list of fraudulent actions they claimed to see at the polls, Vasquez accepted them without verification and held a press conference with [True The Vote Founder Catherine] Engelbrecht asserting Harris County polls were “under a systemic and organized attack.”
Control who counts the votes, control the election. Best case scenario, they manage to help manufacture a Romney win. Worst case, they set up the narrative to render an Obama term illegitimate with the cry of "voter fraud!" and tighten the laws to make it easier next time. They're playing the long game, and there's nothing on the Democratic side that comes close.
These guys are the real threat to our democracy, period.