GOP lawmaker calls on ‘vigilantes’ to film and track voters to fight untested ‘vote mules’

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A Republican state senator has called on ‘vigilantes’ to spy on people casting early ballots at ballot boxes for elections later this year, imploring them to use hidden cameras and track voters until to their cars in an effort to root out unproven fraud alleged by a conservative group that aims to restrict the vote.

“I was so happy to hear about all the vigilantes who want to camp in these drop boxes,” said Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction, said at the end of a legislative hearing lasting nearly two hours by True the Vote, a conservative group that supports restrictive election laws to combat what it calls massive voter fraud.

“We’re going to have hidden surveillance cameras, we’re going to have people parked there watching you and they’re going to follow you to your car and get your license plate, so don’t try. Try no more,” Townsend added.

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True the Vote demands are at the center of “2000 Mules”, an imperfect movie by controversial conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza. At Tuesday’s legislative hearing, the organization gave a lengthy presentation of its Arizona-based findings, saying it found alleged ‘mules’ who aided in the alleged ballot collection or other nefarious acts not specified.

The allegations became widely known through D’Souza’s film “2000 Mules” which alleges that using geolocation data purchased from data brokers, filmmakers were able to track “voting mules” to drop boxes where they falsely claim that people have been paid. fill the ballot boxes with completed ballots. The practice, pejoratively called ballot harvesting, is illegal in Arizona and many other states.

An analysis of the film’s claims by the Associated Press found many problems with the data analysis that D’Souza and True the Vote performed to reach their conclusions. For example, there is no accounting for people with multiple mobile devices that could create pings in geolocation data or people who are elections or campaign workers who would regularly pass by areas where boxes are located. deposit. Other fact checkers have also carried out an independent analysis of the complaints and found them to be fundamentally flawed.

D’Souza and True the Vote have already wrongly asserted that their work and the film had spurred real-world action when it hadn’t. The filmmakers had said the sheriff of Yuma was investigating because of their film, but the sheriff said that was unequivocally untrue.

Townsend had also requested that anyone watching who was an alleged “voting mule” come forward as a whistleblower to the Arizona Senate, which would provide them with informational protection. The Arizona Senate is not a law enforcement agency.

Townsend’s call for vigilante action could lead to violence, as happened in 2020 when a private investigator and former police officer hired by a far-right activist to uncover the source of supposed ballots fraudulent intentionally crashed his car into a pickup truck in Texas, then held the driver – an air conditioner repairman – at gunpointmistakenly believing he was carrying urns.

Tuesday’s hearing was full of conspiracy theories about voter fraud and other conspiracy theories – even before the hearing officially started.

Right Side Broadcasting Network, a pro-Trump network that constantly avoid violations of YouTube’s disinformation terms of service, interviewed a litany of prominent Arizona GOP members before broadcasting the hearing live.

“They were injecting fraudulent ballots,” said gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. There are no evidence of fraudulent ballots in the 2020 election. Lake also claimed that President Joe Biden was not the “legitimate president” due to the “stolen election”, a claim that has no basis in fact and has been dismissed by critics. dozens of courts.

Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward also echoed many of Lake’s sentiments, sharing several other unsubstantiated claims and lashing out at fellow Republicans who did not share her beliefs.

“They’re liars, they’re cheats and they want to steal another election,” Ward told RBSN of fellow Republicans who think Biden won the election. She added that the “mules” were members of “antifa” and “BLM”, presenting no evidence to prove her claim.

The hearing itself began with a prayer for “election integrity” that mentioned a conspiracy theory rooted in anti-Semitism.

“They’re looking to bring globalism, they’re looking to destroy our constitution,” Townsend said during the hearing’s opening prayer. “Shed light on what happened in Arizona and reveal the things that happened in Arizona.”

The globalist conspiracy theory is a far-right conspiracy theory with roots in anti-Semitism and is also often linked to the idea of ​​a “New world orderand a single world government, most often with the Jewish people at the center of the plot.

Among the crowd was a woman wearing an InfoWars shirt. The website is one of the biggest proponents of the globalist conspiracy theory and many other conspiracy theories including hateful and antisemitic.

True the Vote’s presentation was widely critical of fact checkers who pointed out flaws in their data analysis and the holes in their own statements.

The presentation also got background information about the Arizona election incorrect.

Gregg Phillips, True the Vote election expert and a longtime Republican agent, claimed that Arizona counties only collect year of birth on voter registration forms, making it impossible to correctly identify voters. But that’s not true: election officials have every voter’s full date of birth, but only the year is made public.

Phillips and True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht did not disclose the names of the nonprofits they said were paying “mules” to rig the election. They also wouldn’t say how they came to do their data analysis, saying it was “proprietary.”

Multiple attempts to contact the Attorney General’s office to confirm claims made by websites that True the Vote “worked” with the AG’s office and that the organization’s data was passed on for use in charges were not dismissed.

Representative Quang Nguyen, R-Prescott Valley, asked the duo at close range if they had met with the AG or passed on any information.

Phillips said they met with the AG’s office about a year ago and were due to meet again on Wednesday morning. Phillips also claimed to have turned over the information to the FBI.

As the hearing ended, more and more elected officials continued to spread unfounded accusations about the 2020 election, including some candidates for higher office.

“We know election officials colluded with judicial officials in 2020,” Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, said, adding that they changed election procedures “under the guise” of COVID-19. Election procedures in Arizona have not been changed during the pandemic.

Bolick, who is running for secretary of state, set up the hearing on Tuesday and also encouraged Phillips to repeat himself earlier in the hearing when he called the fact-checkers “journalistic terrorists.”

Ward, the state’s GOP leader, seized on the comment, calling the journalists covering the hearing “terrorists”.

“Mainstream media is domestic terrorists,” the Arizona GOP Twitter account tweeted a few minutes later. This tweet was later deleted.

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