The Election Denial Industry is Ramping Up for 2024

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The 2020 U.S. presidential election was the first time in recent history where a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, baselessly lied about potential massive voter fraud as having led to a “rigged” outcome for his opponent, Joe Biden. The “Stop the Steal” movement that emerged from Trump’s complaints about the election, and made up of dozens of election denying organizations, directly threatened American democracy. Its ideas fomented the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. 

As Trump used his widely followed social media platforms to amplify his election fraud claims, an entire cottage industry of far-right organizations sprang up in 2020 to spread election denial narratives citing bogus “evidence” of alleged fraud across the country (GPAHE reported on these organizations in 2022). Many of the groups active in earlier election cycles are now ramping up for the 2024 presidential election, alongside others on the far right that have begun spreading messaging about voter fraud and potential election manipulation in November.

Research has found that allegations of mass voter fraud strongly undermine trust in elections, the bedrock of a healthy democracy, and the acceptance of election results. The claims made by these groups have clearly had a negative impact on our democracy. A survey fielded after the 2020 election found most Trump voters believed Biden’s win was illegitimate, and 40 percent said that they would not support Biden even if Trump’s court cases challenging the election result failed (all of which did). 

All research points to voter fraud being extremely rare, and there is a large consensus among experts that voter fraud in the U.S. not the widespread problem that can alter election results as election deniers would have us believe. An analysis by Justin Levitt, professor at Loyola Law School, for example, found only 31 credible cases of voter impersonation between the years 2000 and 2014, in a pool of over a billion ballots. 

Voting by Mail (VBM), which was commonplace in 2020 due to the pandemic, is also incredibly secure, and five states – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington – hold elections almost exclusively through the mail. VBM states have reported just over a dozen cases of fraud since the year 2000. As with voting in person, VBM fraud is rare, and studies have shown that it increases voter turnout

Despite this unequivocal evidence to the contrary, far-right groups still push the narrative that elections in the United States are largely fraudulent primarily for three reasons. First, to promote legislation that makes it harder to vote, which usually targets minority and lower income voters. Secondly, to promote the lie that Trump actually won the 2020 election. And finally, to bolster the lie that there is a deliberate conspiracy by government elites (usually Democratic party-aligned individuals or Jews) to “replace” the native population with a non-white immigrant one (i.e. the white supremacist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory). Unfortunately, these claims haven’t stopped since 2020, and far-right groups are now laying the groundwork  to paint elections in the U.S. as riddled with fraud. 

Here are six organizations pushing election denial in advance of the 2024 election.

 

 

The Heritage Foundation
The Heritage Foundation is a far right “think tank” founded in 1973, which came to prominence during the Reagan era, and remains an influential organization in the far-right movement. Initially opposed to the Trump administration, the Heritage Foundation eventually came around to supporting Trump after they were given enormous leeway in choosing who would be appointed to cabinet positions in the administration following the 2016 election. They later hired a number of ex-Trump officials after Biden won in 2020. More recently, the organization has turned towards “national conservatism” under the leadership of its new president Kevin Roberts, who has taken up the mantle of Trumpian and Orbanist (see Global Project Against Hate and Extremism’s reporting on Heritage’s connections to Hungary) causes at Heritage. Since then, the organization has transformed from a traditional conservative organization to a well-funded authoritarian and conspiracist outfit fixated on cultural panics and disseminating its detailed plan, Project 2025, to move the country towards authoritarianism and strip civil rights for many communities (for more, read GPAHE’s detailed analysis of Project 2025). Heritage rails about imaginary “radical left threats,” a “secret communist movement in America,” and “wokeism” in every aspect of American life

Heritage also pushes election denial, and backs Trump’s claims of massive voter fraud. They make outright false claims about nonexistent election fraud and exaggerate the extent to which voter fraud is a problem in an effort to support measures that make it more difficult to vote. Many of Heritage’s claims are based on their “Election Fraud Database,” which counts “1,500 proven instances of election fraud.” To the casual observer, these numbers may appear large, but a closer look shows that they extend over decades of election cycles. This means that during each election cycle, the amount of fraud in each state can be counted on one hand, with some states having as few as a single case and others with less than ten. Sensing that the numbers did not demonstrate the significant voter fraud that Heritage might hope for, the organization’s main election denier and their Election Law Reform Initiative Manager and Senior Legal Fellow, Hans A. Von Spakovsky, has taken to arguing that even “one illegal vote can change the outcome of an election.” 

Their “evidence” is then used to make claims, such as by Von Spakovsky, that elections are not “secure and honest” and to push for support of stricter laws (the “best practices” as they refer to them) that allegedly “secure” the vote. The Heritage Foundation’s “Election Integrity Scorecard” scores the extent to which states’ election laws are “secure,” with Southern states that have strict photo ID policies scoring highest, and the Western and Northern states, which employ the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in registrations, as the most “insecure.”  What they don’t mention is that there is hardly any more fraud in the latter than the former states.

Many of the allegations made by other conspiracist “election integrity” organizations are parroted by the Heritage Foundation. For example, Von Spakovsky claims that the idea that voter ID causes voter suppression is “propaganda.” But many peer-reviewed empirical studies point to voter ID laws being a significant impediment to voting for certain parts of the population. He also claims that federally indicting Trump for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election result is a “weaponization of the American Political System.” Von Spakovsky says that VBM would lead to rampant voter fraud, comments that would later be echoed by Trump. During the 2020 election, Von Spakovsky organized secret meetings with members of the Republican Party to discuss alleged voter fraud, including Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, as well as conferences with other election denial groups around the country. Von Spakovsky continues to claim that there is a significant risk of voter fraud in 2024.

Roberts continues to deny that Biden won the 2020 election, and provides intellectual cover for Trump’s election denialism. In a January interview with the New York Times, he flat-out stated that he didn’t believe that Biden won the 2020 election, and when asked why, said:

“Sure. I think there are unknowns. I don’t know the outcome, but that’s why I can’t say yes definitively. And I am no conspiracy theorist at all, as some of the election-integrity people on the right will tell you. Still a lot of unknowns about two counties in Arizona, multiple counties in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Is it possible he won? Sure. But can I say definitively that he won? No. Having said that, I was very vocal at the end of 2020 and early 2021 that that’s what we knew and the election needed to be certified. And so let’s move on …We have an election-fraud database at Heritage that shows a lot of instances of fraud. What I’m not saying is that the examples in that database prove that Biden didn’t win. I’m not certain that he won.”

Casting doubt on the counting of absentee ballots, Roberts called it a “Third World kind of nonsense” that the outcome of elections was not known by midnight, and in an interview with Tamás Orbán of the pro-Orban Hungarian organization Danube Institute, stated that “election fraud has been happening for decades.”

 

 

Tea Party Patriots Action
Tea Party Patriots Action (TPPA) is the 501(c)4 arm of the Tea Party Patriots organization that arose out of the right-wing Tea Party movement that started after Obama took office. The Tea Parties were known for their opposition to Obama’s agenda, government spending, and immigration. The group was founded by attorney Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler in June 2009 after the infamous rant by CNBC analyst Rick Santelli that sparked the first Tea Party events. During those years, the Tea Party Patriots were one of the most influential groups within the larger movement, responsible for organizing a Tax Day Tea Party on April 15, 2010, town hall protests in August 2010, and the Taxpayer March on Washington on September 12th, 2010. 

While the broader movement faded away, Tea Party Patriots Action adapted, taking up new issues including promoting the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure for coronavirus, and sponsoring Trump events, including the “March to Save America,” a large rally held on the Washington, D.C., Mall hours before the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. In 2021, TPPA began to pivot in its focus, saying that the group’s “animating issue” had become “faith in the elections” following the 2020 vote.  

In their newly-released report titled, “The threat of Noncitizen Voting in 2024,” TPPA falsely claims that there are no safeguards to prevent voting by non-citizens in federal elections, which is itself already against the law. They write: 

“At the end of January, Tea Party Patriots Action fielded a survey asking Americans what they thought about noncitizens voting in American elections. We asked these particular questions because although federal criminal law prohibits noncitizens from voting, there are so many holes that have been punched into the law, that the law is basically moot. The threat of noncitizens being able to register to vote and then actually vote is very, very real. We hope to use our survey results along with the facts that demonstrate noncitizens would find it very easy to vote in many cases to urge the House of Representatives to act without delay, and to stop the threat of noncitizens voting before the 2024 election.”

It is important to note that there is no substantial evidence of mass voter fraud by non-citizens. The Brennan Center put out a report documenting that “Noncitizen voting in the 2016 election was exceedingly rare,” for example, accounting for 0.0001 percent of the votes in the 42 jurisdictions surveyed, which contradicted Trump and other supporters’ claims. Tea Party Patriots Action and other groups have yet to provide any evidence that voting by non-citizens has ever been a serious problem.

TPPA alleges, using anti-immigrant rhetoric, that this had already been a problem “before the current invasion with more than 6 million noncitizens having come into the USA since 2021,” a vocabulary that mirrors that of the white nationalist Great Replacement conspiracy theory. The framing is clearly intended to evoke fear about an oncoming “replacement” of the electorate by echoing  what Trump has said in the past about non-citizen immigrants voting en masse.

This is only part of the group’s anti-immigrant activities. In January 2024, Tea Party Patriots Action fielded a survey in which they asked respondents whether “only U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote in elections in America,” to which a majority of respondents agreed. What is not mentioned, of course, is that voting by non-citizens is already illegal under federal law and rare.

 

 

 

True the Vote (TTV)/Voto Honesto
True the Vote is a far right, conspiracist vote monitoring organization, based out of Houston, Texas, that supports voter ID laws and other measures to “secure” elections in the United States. Led by Catherine Engelbrecht, True the Vote became well known in 2020 for their support of the conspiracy theory that Biden only won the election due to widespread voter fraud. After the election, they claimed to have evidence of such fraud gathered using cell phone geo-tracking data, and raised millions of dollars in donations from supporters, but never showed any of the evidence to the public. They were the primary source of the conspiracist “documentary film” 2000 Mules by Dinesh D’Souza, which helped popularize their false claims, and led to an investigation and lawsuit by the Georgia State Election Board. In court, True the Vote was subpoenaed to provide its evidence of illegal “vote harvesting;” however, attorneys for the group said they did not have any names or documentary evidence to share (TTV principals have been involved in various other legal imbroglios).

In 2024, it appears that True the Vote is intent on targeting Spanish-speaking residents of the United States to spread their disinformation. Engelbrecht has brought back their “Voto Honesto” (Honest Vote) campaign to “inform” Latinos about the issue of voter fraud in the United States, and campaign in favor of voter ID laws. Voto Honesto was originally started around 2012, and led by Adryana Boyne of VOCES Action, but the project has been dormant in more recent years. During that time, True the Vote sought to mobilize and train volunteers to work as election monitors, pursue cases of “voter fraud” and “perform voter roll research.”

In a recent interview with the new spokesperson for the Voto Honesto campaign, Violet Sarria, Engelbrecht announced the program’s relaunch. In it, Engelbrecht enunciated a litany of conspiratorial narratives about voter fraud, including that she believed that the “borders would be exploited in a way that would have an impact on this election cycle.” It was, according to her, a “clear play to change the electorate” by “registering non-citizens to vote this general election cycle,” and she claimed that non-citizens were using the identities of real, registered voters to vote illegally. She went on to say, “We’re hearing interviews from non-citizens who are making statements that, yes, they are here as political asylees, that means that they are citizens, and by extension, they intend to vote, and they intend to vote for Biden.”

For her part, Sarria compared American elections to those in her native Nicaragua, which V-Dem and other analysts classify as an authoritarian regime, citing, for example, “dead people voting” in 2020 as evidence of fraud. She stated that Latinos are often “misinformed” about voter fraud in the U.S. and claimed that Spanish-speakers do not have sources of information about widespread voter fraud and other election irregularities. While the full aim of Voto Honesto is a bit unclear, Saria has said that they would be working to “inform” Latino voters online by creating videos, and helping to translate the True the Vote website.

 

 

Turning Point Action
Turning Point Action (TPA) is the 501(c)4 sister organization of Charlie Kirk’s far-right Turning Point USA. Kirk perennially stokes racial resentments and uses divisiveness to build what is largely a youth movement. Typical was Kirk’s calling George Floyd a “scumbag” after his murder at the hands of police ignited racial justice rallies across the country in 2020. Parroting the white supremacist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, Kirk also said “Biden intentionally let Afghanistan fall because he ‘wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently.’” Kirk has toured college campuses raging at schools that teach about racism.

This year, Turning Point Action has introduced an alliance of organizations in ten states (AZ, NV, IA, WI, MI, OH, PA, NC, GA, FL) that are a part of their “chase the vote” initiative, calling on supporters to become “full-time ballot chasers.” Framed as a get-out-the-vote campaign, many of Kirk’s partner organizations spread disinformation about the “weaponization of government.” Initial reporting points to this alliance being a multimillion dollar project; spokesperson Andrew Kolvet has said that they intend to raise more than $100 million. In addition to mobilizing “patriotic” conservatives, and encouraging them to vote early and support pro-Trump and election-denying candidates in the 2024 election, they also seek to oust election officials who rejected false claims of voting fraud in 2020 and 2022 made by Trump and his supporters. 

Part of the framing of encouraging conservatives to vote early, a type of voting conservatives have long opposed, is that they are reluctantly “playing the left’s game,” as expressed by Turning Point Action Chief Operating Officer Tyler Bowyer:

“Whether we like it or not, it’s time for conservatives to accept that our elections have been fundamentally transformed from traditional same-day voting to an early vote mobilization game. It’s time for our side of the aisle to adapt and respond. Our new coalition will build and execute an early vote juggernaut, giving us the upper hand in this logistical battle. From now on, we will play by the Left’s rules and chase every vote before Election Day even begins.” 

Among TPA’s coalition is American First Works, the sister organization of the America First Policy Institute (AFPI). The America First Policy Institute is a “think tank,” founded in 2021 by Brooke Rollins, Larry Kudlow, and other former Trump administration officials, to support Trump’s political agenda. In their press releases, they say that the executive branch has been “weaponized” against Trump in “a horrific abuse of power.” Their message to voters is clear: the American government is allegedly controlled by an autocratic deep state that is targeting both American voters and Trump.

“The radical Left, political elite, and legacy media — the SWAMP — have unveiled their true intentions. They have weaponized the government against the rest of America. We now have a two-tiered justice system that is coming not just for their top political opponent but for all of us — even you. They’re targeting the 81-year-old Army veteran who attended the wrong protest, sentencing him to three years of probation. They’re targeting parents who dare speak up at school board meetings and labeling them as ‘domestic terrorists.’ They’re targeting a Catholic pro-life dad of seven who dared to pray outside an abortion clinic. Meanwhile, progressive woke prosecutors have allowed repeat offenders back on the streets, and the IRS has been emboldened with 87k new agents to target middle and low-income Americans. The silent majority can no longer afford to be silent. This goes beyond the unjust prosecution from the Soros-funded Manhattan DA of a political opponent. Their message to us is clear: Say the wrong thing, go to the wrong church, attend the wrong rally or protest, and you’re next.”

Another TPA partner is the Election Integrity Network led by lawyer Cleta Mitchell, known for aiding Trump in his attempt to overturn the election results and pressure election officials to “find” enough votes for him to win in Georgia. The Election Integrity Network has gone on the offensive against rankedchoice voting (RCV), an electoral system which lets voters rank candidates based on their preferences. Following the 2022 elections, after Mary Peltola (D) won a special House election in Alaska over former Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Nick Begich (R), Republicans have opposed ranked-choice voting, with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) calling it “a scam to rig elections,” and Trump calling it a “rigged deal.” Despite critics referring to it as “convoluted,” an overwhelming percentage of voters in Alaska call it “simple” (85 percent). Regardless, the Election Integrity Network refers to ranked-choice voting as “Rigged Choice Voting” and called for it to be repealed in Alaska and Maine, where the RCV system was recently passed into law.

Another partner is the Center for Renewing America, which has written a primer about “The Biden Administration’s Attempt to Subvert Our Elections.” They refer to Biden’s Executive Order 14019, which appropriated resources to be used for the purpose of registering and mobilizing voters and provide information about vote-by-mail ballots, as an “Electoral Power Grab” and “a coordinated effort to weaponize the federal government to usurp state control over elections and use tax dollars to turn federal agencies into a political action machine in favor of one political party.”

 

 

 

The Heartland Institute
The Heartland Institute is a far-right think tank, founded in 1984 that is best known for its long history of supporting pseudo-scientific and conspiracist positions. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the Heartland Institute accepted money from the tobacco company Philip Morris to downplay the negative effects of smoking, and the fossil fuel companies to publicly deny the scientific consensus on climate change. The Heartland Institute was also one of the organizers of the September 2009 Taxpayer March on Washington alongside other Tea Party groups. 

As late as early 2024, Heartland was still one of the main groups attempting to “prove” the false Trump claim that there was widespread voter fraud during the 2024 election due to mail-in ballots. Most recently, the institute partnered with Rasmussen Reports to field a survey that attempts to prove fraud connected to mail-in voting. The report, entitled “Who Really Won the 2020 Election: Measuring the Effect of Mail-in Ballot Fraud in the Trump-Biden Race for the White House,” claims that “a massive number of voters who cast ballots by mail admitted to committing at least one form of voter fraud in the 2020 election.” Trump loved the conclusions, calling it “the biggest story of the year” and “the most important poll released in the last 20 years.” 

Among the claims advanced by the survey are that (1) seventeen percent of mail-in voters admitted that in 2020 they voted in a state where they are “no longer a permanent resident;” (2) “twenty-one percent of mail-in voters admitted that they filled out a ballot for a friend or family member;” (3) “seventeen percent of mail-in voters said they signed a ballot for a friend or family member ‘with or without his or her permission;’” and (4) “nineteen percent of mail-in voters said that a friend or family member filled out their ballot, in part or in full, on their behalf.” From this, they claim that even if the allegations of fraud were overstated, it wouldn’t matter as even a significantly lower amount of fraud would still lead to Trump winning.

The results appear astonishing and completely out of line with research on mail-in ballots. If over twenty percent of the vote was fraudulent, then that would imply that millions of people broke the law. However, to date, there is still no solid evidence of this occurring. Previous analyses demonstrate that VBM does not lead to a significantly larger amount of fraud than voting in-person. A 2021 study published by Statistics and Public Policy demonstrated that VBM from 2016 and 2019 led to no significant change in the amount of fraudulent votes, relative to in-person voting. More importantly, the self-reported results of the Heartland Institute poll do not coincide with the amount of physical evidence demonstrating mass fraud. A review of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by Trump in 2020 performed by the Associated Press found that fewer than 475 votes were possibly fraudulent. This was not nearly enough to turn the election in Trump’s favor. Clearly, the poll was engineered to elicit the responses Heartland hoped to receive.

 

 

 

Mike Lindell and the “Lindell Offense Fund”
Disgraced pillow entrepreneur and conspiracist election denier Mike Lindell, the CEO of My Pillow, was one of the most prominent and loudest pro-Trump activists to question the results of the 2020 election. Following the election, Lindell promoted a conspiracy theory where he falsely claimed that the Smartmatic and Dominion voting machines were “rigged” by foreign governments to ensure that Joe Biden won the election, resulting in a multimillion dollar lawsuit for defamation. His unpaid legal fees for the case are in the millions of dollars. He later sponsored bus tours, conventions, and other events such as his three-day “Cyber Symposium” event where he offered a five million dollar reward to any participant who could prove that “packet captures” and other data he released were not valid data “from the November 2020 election.” A judge recently declared that Lindell was on the hook to pay the full amount to an individual who entered the contest and was rewarded the contest money by a panel of three arbitrators. 

Despite these setbacks, Lindell continues to say that the 2020 election was “stolen,” and now has launched a new project, the “Lindell Offense Fund.” His plan for 2024 consists of setting up “real-time election monitoring” through Lindell’s “Frank Social” app, the creation of a grassroots movement, “Cause of America,” that aims to “change laws, remove machines, and teach hand count voting,” the development of a media platform called “Frankspeech,” to share “real news in real time,” and the development of an “Election Crime Bureau” that will centrally coordinate election fraud claims. According to Lindell, his plan relies not on elected officials, judges, or law enforcement, but on “We the People.”

Lindell’s plan asks supporters for donations to fuel it. In his speech at CPAC 2024 in Washington D.C., Lindell insisted that he and his supporters would be going around to every state in order to lobby in support of using paper ballots in the election. However, given the financial burden, it’s not clear to what extent Lindell will be actually capable of putting his plans into action.

640 427 Global Project Against Hate and Extremism
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