It’s easy to make fun of Donald Trump’s brain vomit unleashed on CNN Wednesday. But one of his Big Fibs is seriously threatening the 2024 election. Trump said,
“If you look at True the Vote, they found millions of votes on camera, on government cameras, where they were stuffing ballot boxes. … Look at what happened in Atlanta, millions of votes, and all you have to do is take a look at government cameras. You will see them, people going to 28 different voting booths to vote, to put in seven ballots apiece. I mean, and they’re all on camera.”
The Palast Investigative team took on this very claim in our film Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman.
Trump’s claim of one guy stuffing ballots into “28 voting booths” (he meant, absentee ballot drop boxes) comes, as he says, from the Texas group of self-proclaimed vote fraud vigilantes True the Vote, producers of the film 2000 Mules, premiered by Trump at Mar-a-Lago.
In 2000 Mules, as sinister music plays, we see a Black man get out of his car, approach a ballot drop box—and put in his vote.
[See the clip from 2000 Mules—and my take-down of it from our film Vigilante.]
Yes, it’s all on camera Mr. Ex-President. It’s a lot of shots of Black men…voting, putting their ballots in the box. One of them, Mark Andrews, an Atlanta tech exec., who was hunted down by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation because of the Trump/True the Vote claim, has now sued True the Vote for defamation—and they have not denied he was falsely accused. (Andrews had placed his ballot in the box along with his wife’s and three adult kids’ ballots.)
But what about the Black man (and all the Georgia voters they accused are Black) who Trump and the Mules gang said stuffed multiple ballots into 28 boxes—all on camera! Yes, every drop box in Atlanta had a 24/7 camera filming every voter. So, they have the proof, the film. At least that’s what the True the Vote crew tells us. But they never show us the 28 films, just the same one again and again.
And while they don’t show us any evidence whatsoever that the voter is casting ballots all over Atlanta, they make sure that you know he’s a dangerous Black man. “This particular person is actually a mule. …This is OJ Simpson leaving the scene of the crime.”
As Harvard Fellow LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund told me, when I asked her if this was OJ Simpson: “This is the complexity and nuance of racism in America. That by the very presence of who he is, he is considered guilty. Because in the de-humanizing of Black people, [True the Vote thinks] ‘Who the hell is he to think he has the right to vote?!’ ….And then to call a human being a ‘mule,’ …I mean, where do we go from there?”
It’s very satisfying to say, as the CNN pundits do, that Trump is lying, that this ballot-box stuffing claim by True the Vote has been “de-bunked.”
But what preening pundits leave out is that Trump’s claims have been astonishingly effective in changing laws to coldly block Black voting. It’s particularly sickening that CNN once again gave heroic stature to the GOP Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger. Raffensperger, while stating loudly that not one single fraudulent ballot was found in those drop-boxes, nevertheless promoted the law that forced the removal of 75% of drop boxes only in the Atlanta metro counties—i.e. Black, Democratic counties—and made them available only a few hours a day for only a few days.
The result in Georgia was measurably horrifying. The closure of drop boxes was a key factor in a breathtaking one-million-vote fall in turn-out between the January 2021 US Senate run-off and the December 2022 re-match.
The anti-drop-box and anti-absentee-ballot crusade launched by Trump and True the Vote has been marching unimpeded from Arizona to Texas. At the beginning of this year, Ohio’s Republican Governor signed a bill that limits each county to a single drop box. That means that the 1.2 million citizens of Cleveland get just one box while Vinton County’s 11,600 residents (96% white) also get one box.
In battleground state Wisconsin, the right-wing legal vote suppression specialists, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), won a court order eliminating all drop-boxes in the state. (We are waiting on the State Supreme Court to make the final decision.) The Palast team flew to Wisconsin to investigate this outfit. Notably, we found that WILL’s funding comes substantially from the Bradley Family Foundation—the same source that funds True the Vote.
Texas had already banned drop-boxes, but Harris County (Houston) got around it by simply having a fully staffed 24-hour drive-up window for voters. How dare Houston, 71% non-white, make voting accessible! Republican Governor Greg Abbott banned the drop-off windows.
It’s not by accident that the poster for our film, Vigilante, is a ballot drop-box—with bullet holes in it. This box is the new battleground. The 2020 election, in which most states made mail-in voting easier (1 in 6 voters used drop-boxes) showed that, if you take away impediments, voting turnout will soar. Of the tens of millions of drop-box ballots, I’m still waiting to see proof of even one single fraudulent vote.
But they aren’t looking to block fraudsters, they are looking, as LaTosha Brown said, to block ‘mules’…i.e. the surging Black vote that tossed Trump out of the Oval Office—and gave Democrats slim control of the US Senate.
If it were just Trump talking about mules stuffing ballots, we could laugh. But, under the media radar, Trump’s whack-o accusations are the basis of a partisan, racially-poisonous attack on the right to cast a vote.
For that reason, we are now taking our film national. Originally, for the political impact showings last year, we focused on one state. Now, Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman, will take on the nationwide spread of the Georgia suppression schemes.
If you think our investigations, the films, the reports, the litigation and the public education campaign for 2024, is worth doing, your backing is truly appreciated.
Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits and the book and documentary,
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
His latest film is Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman
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