State and Local Officials’ Communications with Voting-Restriction Activists and Groups

In recent years, false claims of widespread voter fraud have been given unearned amplification not just by the president, but by right-wing groups working on the ground in various states to convert those false claims into voting restrictions and overzealous voter-roll purges. 

American Oversight has been investigating the extent of these activists’ influence, using public records requests to unearth numerous examples of organizations including True the Vote, the Heritage Foundation, and the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) attempting to convince or compel state and local governments to investigate purported voter-roll irregularities and allegations of voter fraud.

True the Vote and PILF appear to conduct their own audits of voter files in an effort to identify abnormalities, which they ultimately compile and report to state and local entities. In at least one case, PILF sent local elections officials in Florida a referral concerning allegations of a single case of possible double voting, relying on findings published by the frequently discredited Project Veritas. PILF also sent Palm Beach County officials a list of instances in which ballots were supposedly cast in the names of deceased voters; the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal looked into that list, which was obtained by American Oversight, and could verify no such instances.

Other right-wing groups, such as Judicial Watch, use similar strategies to bolster debunked claims of widespread voter fraud and to push for laws and policies that generally restrict access to voting. Below, we have compiled a list of communications between elections officials and voting-restriction activists that we have uncovered through public records requests and litigation.

True the Vote

Florida and Texas
On July 6, 2016, True the Vote sent a letter to Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Christina White identifying “potential registration irregularities.” The letter also included a request for numerous related records.

Officials in Texas’ Office of the Attorney General met with True the Vote’s Catherine Engelbrecht on March 13, 2017, to discuss SB-5, a state voter-ID bill. Officials Jeff Mateer (assistant attorney general), Brantley Starr (deputy first assistant attorney general), and Steve Pier (director of intergovernmental relations and strategic initiatives) attended the meeting. About a year later, Mateer participated in a conference call with Engelbrecht on March 5, 2018.

On April 25, 2017, True the Vote sought Dallas County records concerning mail-in ballots. Engelbrecht filed a National Voter Registration Act request for ballot-by-mail applications, complaints, and data regarding counted and mail-in ballots “surrendered” by voters who hadn’t requested them.

Heritage Foundation

Florida
On Aug. 24, 2017, the Heritage Foundation’s Jason Snead asked Florida’s then-Secretary of State Ken Detzner for assistance in adding to the organization’s database of purportedly “proven examples of voter fraud.”

Texas
Snead’s colleague Hans von Spakovsky made a similar request of Texas’ then-Secretary of State Rolando Pablos on June 27, 2018. He sent the same message to Detzner that day as well.

Georgia
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger attended the Heritage Foundation’s all-day briefing for secretaries of state on Feb. 1, 2019, meeting separately with von Spakovsky. The previous day, he had met with Susan Carleson of the American Constitutional Rights Union (formerly the American Civil Rights Union), a legal organization founded “to counter the anti-freedom agenda of the American Civil Liberties Union.”

Raffensperger also attended a meeting with von Spakovsky and Georgia state legislators on Aug. 27, 2019. This meeting had been previously reported, but not the participation of State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick and State Rep. Barry Fleming. According to the records, State Sen. William Ligon was invited but could not attend.

Public Interest Legal Foundation

Florida
Following the controversial Nov. 6, 2018, election in Florida, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes resigned effective Jan. 4 amid fierce criticism from Republicans. After then-Gov. Rick Scott suspended her at the end of November, Snipes attempted to rescind her resignation. Ron DeSantis, who became governor in January 2019, voided Scott’s suspension on Jan. 18 and accepted her original resignation.

On Jan. 9, 2019, the day after DeSantis was sworn in, PILF President J. Christian Adams claimed that he could offer the governor’s office “uncontroverted evidence of incompetence” on the part of Snipes related to the 2018 election.

Earlier that afternoon, in an email chain about an upcoming Florida Federalist Society Conference panel discussion on election law, Adams indicated that he wanted to discuss “Broward County/Brenda Snipes office administration issues and Snipes trial recap,” as well as “findings in Florida relating to data mining of county election offices and administration vulnerabilities.”

On March 22, 2019, PILF Research Director Logan Churchwell sent Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark a letter outlining a single case of alleged double voting, based on a Project Veritas video.

Adams requested a meeting with DeSantis’ general counsel, Joe Jacquot, on March 26, 2019, to discuss the implementation of Florida’s SB 7066 and to offer legal assistance should the state face related lawsuits. “[T]here is a fair chance that the state will face litigation regardless of what the legislature does,” Adams wrote. “We are able to help in that regard.” Less than two weeks later, DeSantis’ staff had a call with PILF.

In June 2019, PILF Legal Counsel Sue Becker arranged a meeting with Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link regarding allegations of fraud. Becker followed up the meeting by sending a spreadsheet, claiming that PILF had found hundreds of instances of deceased voters having cast ballots, as well as instances of voters using UPS or similar business addresses on the registrations. Palm Beach County Director of Elections Sean Williams indicated that he would review their data. An investigation by Reveal found no instances in which deceased people identified by PILF had cast ballots in the county.

On Feb. 11, 2020, Becker sent a letter to DeSantis highlighting the group’s discovery of purported evidence of election and voter registration fraud. The letter also included a list of 10 steps that PILF recommended Florida take to “safeguard the 2020 election”; among them are resisting efforts to reform the Electoral College, making changes to “the ballot harvesting law,” and requesting access to federal records on noncitizens.

Texas
As part of its effort to compel county-level voter-roll maintenance activity, PILF sent letters on Sept. 15, 2017, to Roberts and Kent counties in Texas, threatening lawsuits over the counties’ maintenance of voter-registration records and requesting the disclosure of voter-roll maintenance records. Reports have indicated that PILF sent similar letters to nearly 250 counties across the country.

According to Texas Elections Director Keith Ingram’s calendars, on Jan. 23, 2020, Ingram attended a Texas Public Policy Foundation panel discussion that included Adams.

Georgia
On July 9, 2020, PILF held a call with officials from the Georgia secretary of state’s office to discuss “concerns with Voter List Maintenance.” After the call, PILF’s Logan Churchwell indicated he had sent an attachment “as promised,” but the email provides no indication of the contents of that attachment.

PILF Records Requests
In addition to sharing allegations of voter fraud with state and local officials, PILF has also solicited records related to voter-roll maintenance, voter eligibility, and voting rights from various state and local government offices in Florida, Texas, and Georgia.

In Florida, PILF sent requests on May 10, 2017; May 17 and Nov. 15, 2018; July 18 and Oct. 4, 2019; and Jan. 7 and Feb. 5, 2020. On April 29, 2019, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections sent PILF records of voters “removed from the voter file due to being non citizens.”

In Texas, PILF sent requests on May 12, Dec. 1 and 19, 2017; and Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, 2019. On Dec. 20, 2017, PILF threatened federal litigation should the Bexar County Elections Administrator “continue to deny access to requested records in their possession.”

In Georgia, PILF sent requests on May 10, 2017; Nov. 7, another on Nov. 7, Nov. 26, Nov. 28, and Nov. 30, 2018.

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April 17, 2020

News Roundup: Who Stands to Gain?

Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Reserve, Florida, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, Florida Department of Health, Florida Division of Emergency Management, Florida Office of the Governor, Georgia - Tybee Island City, Georgia Department of Administrative Services, Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, Small Business Administration, Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, Wisconsin Senate, Wisconsin State Assembly
April 3, 2020

News Roundup: Whose Stockpile, and Which States?

California Office of the Governor, Central Intelligence Agency, Commerce - Bureau of Industry and Security, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, Florida - Broward County, Florida - Duval County, Florida - Gadsden County, Florida - Hendry County, Florida - Jackson County, Florida - Leon County, Florida - Miami-Dade County, Florida - Osceola County, Florida Office of the Governor, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, New York Office of the Governor, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Ohio Office of the Governor, Oklahoma Department of Health, Oklahoma Office of the Governor, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Washington - King County, Washington Office of the Governor, White House - Office of Management and Budget
March 27, 2020

News Roundup: Transparency and Oversight Are More Important Than Ever

Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - National Security Division, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Election Commission, Florida Attorney General, Florida Department of State, Florida Office of the Governor, General Services Administration, Georgia - Bartow County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 25, 2020

American Oversight Expands State Voting Rights Investigations to Wisconsin, New Hampshire

March 20, 2020

News Roundup: Testing, Messaging and Missed Chances

Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Communications Commission, Florida Attorney General, Georgia Attorney General, Nevada Department of Administration, Texas - Harris County, Texas Attorney General, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 17, 2020

Floridians with Prior Felonies Need to Pay Fines Before Voting — But Documents Reveal the State Can’t Properly Track What They Owe

Florida - Hernando County, Florida - Hillsborough County, Florida - Leon County, Florida - Martin County, Florida - Okaloosa County, Florida Department of State
March 13, 2020

News Roundup: Continuing Our Investigation of Coronavirus Response

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, Georgia Secretary of State, Texas Secretary of State, Washington State Department of Health, Wisconsin
March 6, 2020

News Roundup: Rising Coronavirus Fears and Sinking Public Trust

Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOI - Bureau of Land Management, DOJ - Criminal Division, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, Federal Reserve, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Driver Services, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Administration for Children and Families, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health, Texas - Briscoe County, Texas - Freestone County, Texas - Hall County, Texas - Hill County, Texas - Hood County, Texas - Jones County, Texas - Kendall County, Texas - Lavaca County, Texas - Leon County, Texas - Limestone County, Texas - Loving County, Texas - Morris County, Texas - Scurry County, Texas - Starr County, Texas - Swisher County, Texas - Victoria County, Texas Secretary of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, VA - Veterans Health Administration, Washington - King County, Washington State Department of Health, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
February 14, 2020

News Roundup: Trump Has Learned His ‘Lesson’

Central Intelligence Agency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, Federal Reserve, Florida House of Representatives, Florida Senate, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Kentucky Office of the Governor, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Wisconsin Senate, Wisconsin State Assembly
February 7, 2020

News Roundup: Acquittal Isn’t the End

Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of State, Florida Department of State, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Secretary of State, White House - Office of Management and Budget
January 31, 2020

News Roundup: Hear No Evil, See No Evil

Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Texas - Harris County, Texas Office of the Governor
January 24, 2020

News Roundup: Evidence of Obstruction

Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Transportation, DOT - Federal Aviation Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Georgia - Clayton County, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, Texas Senate, White House - Office of Management and Budget
January 17, 2020

News Roundup: The Evidence Continues to Mount

Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia - Clayton County, Georgia - Hancock County, Georgia - Jefferson County, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
January 10, 2020

News Roundup: Presidential War Powers and New Impeachment Documents

Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Florida - Hernando County, Florida - Nassau County, Florida - Okaloosa County, Florida - Seminole County, Florida Department of Corrections, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of State, Florida Office of the Governor, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
December 27, 2019

American Oversight’s 2019 in Review: Nine Important Stories We Uncovered

December 23, 2019

American Oversight’s Investigation into the Restoration of Voting Rights in Florida

Florida - Broward County, Florida - Collier County, Florida - Duval County, Florida - Gadsden County, Florida - Hardee Count, Florida - Hendry County, Florida - Hillsborough County, Florida - Leon County, Florida - Miami-Dade County, Florida - Monroe County, Florida - Palm Beach County, Florida - Taylor County, Florida - Washington County, Florida Attorney General, Florida Department of State, Florida House of Representatives, Florida Office of the Governor, Florida Senate
December 23, 2019

An Update on Our Investigation into Georgia’s Election System and Voter-Roll Purges

Georgia - Bartow County, Georgia - Carroll County, Georgia - Catoosa County, Georgia - Clayton County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - Decatur County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Dougherty County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia - Hancock County, Georgia - Jefferson County, Georgia - Lowndes County, Georgia - Macon-Bibb County, Georgia - Paulding County, Georgia - Randolph County, Georgia - Rockdale County, Georgia Department of Driver Services, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State
December 23, 2019

Texas Officials’ Communications with ‘Voter Fraud’ Activists

Texas - Cameron County, Texas - Dallas County, Texas - Harris County, Texas - Hidalgo County, Texas - Starr County, Texas - Tarrant County, Texas - Travis County, Texas - Zavala County, Texas Attorney General, Texas House of Representatives, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, Texas Senate
December 13, 2019

News Roundup: Stephen Miller’s Extremist Network

Congress, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DOI - Bureau of Land Management, DOI - Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia - Carroll County, Texas Attorney General, Treasury - Office of Foreign Assets Control, White House - Office of Management and Budget
December 6, 2019

News Roundup: Impeachment Report, Border Wall Contracts, and Pompeo’s Meeting with GOP Donors

Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State
November 27, 2019

News Roundup: Thankful for FOIA

Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Kentucky Office of the Governor, USDA - Food Safety and Inspection Service
November 19, 2019

Former DOJ Civil Rights Official Acknowledges He Made Incorrect Statement in Sworn Declaration

Department of Justice
November 15, 2019

News Roundup: Impeachment Inquiry Goes Public

Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Veterans Affairs, Florida House of Representatives, Georgia - Bartow County, Georgia - Carroll County, Georgia - Decatur County, Georgia - Lowndes County, Georgia - Paulding County, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Texas - Dallas County, Texas - Harris County, Texas - Travis County, White House - Council on Environmental Quality
October 4, 2019

Former Top Civil Rights Official John Gore Made Misleading Statements in Declaration to Federal Court

Department of Justice
September 18, 2019

In the Documents: Texas Elections Officials’ Close Ties to ‘Voter Fraud’ Activists

Texas - Starr County, Texas Attorney General, Texas Secretary of State