In the midst of a global pandemic and an international movement against police brutality, an inconspicuous but potentially effective form of voter suppression is growing across the country: voter fraud task forces. Shaped after President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — which disbanded in 2018 after failing to find any credible evidence to support Trump’s accusations of widespread voter fraud — these groups exist to use fear tactics that dissuade voters from participating in democracy.
Many of the voter fraud task forces are now targeting new efforts to allow citizens to vote by mail in upcoming elections — a proposal that multiple states are considering in light of the safety risks posed by voting in person during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Despite a lack of data, opponents of mail-in voting have been vocal about its alleged potential for fraud, and the following states have launched investigations into the supposed threat:
West Virginia: In April, West Virginia launched its Election Fraud Task Force to “identify, investigate and prosecute fraud” in its upcoming June primary election. Last month, following what he acknowledged to be an “isolated incident” of ballot-request tampering, Secretary of State Mac Warner warned voters to be on alert for “intimidation or coercion” and to contact the task force with any suspicions.
Georgia: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger launched the state’s Absentee Ballot Fraud Task Force in April. The new group, composed of prosecutors and election officials appointed by Raffensperger, will investigate mismatched voter signatures and duplicate or nonresidential addresses. Georgia previously faced three federal lawsuits in 2008, 2016 and 2018 for its “exact match” law, which placed tens of thousands of voter registrations on hold over the course of its 12-year run. The law was finally scrapped in 2019.
Kentucky: In May, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams and Attorney General Daniel Cameron launched a Ballot Integrity Task Force made up of election officials and law enforcement professionals. “The biggest challenge I have right now is making the concept of absentee voting less toxic for Republicans,” Adams said.
Nebraska: According to a local Omaha report, in Nebraska, state and local elections officials are working with the Omaha bureau of the FBI to keep close watch over elections.
Florida: Just last month, Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement concluded its 18-month-long investigation into allegations of voter fraud stemming from the 2018 ballot recount. Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox said the investigation findings “lack[ed] sufficient evidence to support prosecution.”
Similar efforts on the national level — including the Republican Party’s plan to recruit 50,000 volunteers to act as “poll watchers” — are taking place as states expand voting by mail. As these state task forces begin their work, American Oversight will monitor their actions as a part of our State Accountability Project. We have filed open records requests with Georgia’s secretary of state and attorney general seeking records related to the Absentee Ballot Fraud Task Force’s work, communications concerning the task force, and communications among task force members. Those requests and the state’s responses — including the claim by the office of Georgia’s attorney general that it had no responsive records — are available here.
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