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On the Project Veritas 'ballot harvesting' allegations

The video by the right-wing sting group has sparked debate in Minnesota.

If you're reading this, by now you're likely to have come across reference to "Project Veritas" and "ballot harvesting" concerning Minnesota in the past few days.

The right-wing activist group has posted a series of videos that claim to show evidence of illegal "ballot harvesting" for a Minneapolis City Council election in August involving members of the Somali community, and alleges a "cash for ballots" scheme that it has linked – without evidence – to Rep. Ilhan Omar, and her then Primary opponent Antone Melton-Meaux.

The story has now been widely reported by multiple Twin Cities news outlets, and you can take a look at what they found below:

Star Tribune: "Trump seizes on conservative group's claim of fraud in Minneapolis election."

FOX 9: "Project Veritas alleges election fraud, with scant evidence."

– Pioneer Press: "Undercover video raises questions about absentee ballot handling in Somali community, Republicans say"

KSTP: "Hennepin County attorney says no reports of 'ballot harvesting' prior to allegations from Project Veritas, MPD evaluating 'validity'"

Project Veritas: "Ilhan Omar Connected Cash-For-Ballots Voter Fraud Scheme Corrupts Elections."

Sahan Journal: "How did an August primary election in Minneapolis turn into a national right-wing disinformation campaign against absentee ballots?"

Minnesota Reformer: "Right-wing group alleges Minneapolis primary tainted by illegal voting scheme"

The Daily Dot: "This voter fraud insider touted by Trump runs a non-existent organization."

Project Veritas has a history of dubious claims predicated on innuendo and edited video, often without solid evidence. It has form for attempted "sting" videos targeting liberal groups and the media, and their work has been discredited on several occasions.

Their allegations regarding Minnesota comes amid a wider effort by some Republicans – among them President Donald Trump – to delegitimize the veracity of mail-in voting at a time when more people than ever are choosing to vote absentee to limit their exposure to COVID-19.

"Ballot harvesting" became briefly legal in Minnesota this year thanks to a July 28 court ruling that scrapped the limit on the number of absentee ballots an individual can submit on behalf of others, acting as their "agent" to deliver them to an election office.

Project Veritas says that the video in which a man claims he's collected 300 absentee ballots were taken on July 1 and 2 (one of the videos is not dated, the other says July 2 on it). In any case, this was before the rule came into place and if the envelopes in the video were filled-out absentee ballots (which is not confirmed), it would have been illegal to collect and return them at that time.

It's always been illegal to fill out a ballot for someone else without their knowledge, or to pay someone to vote a certain way, or to be paid to collect and return ballots.

In any case, ballot harvesting will NOT be permitted in the 2020 elections, because the court ruling that allowed it in July was overturned on Sept. 4, before early voting started on Sept. 18. This follows a legal challenge by, among others, the Minnesota GOP.

This means the maximum number of ballots a designated "agent" can return on behalf of voters for the 2020 elections is, once again, three.

If someone turned up with hundreds of ballots in their possession, the maximum they would be able to return is three. What's more, their details are taken so that they are unable to return any more this election cycle.

The video has sparked calls from Minnesota Republicans who are backing the president's claims of voter fraud, with the president having already suggested he won't accept the results of an election that shows he lost, paving the way for a legal challenge centering on mail-in votes.

Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan on Monday also suggested that ballot harvesting and voter bribery is the reason the voter turnout was so high in Hennepin County in the 2018 mid-terms and gubernatorial election.

This is a non-starter, not least because Minnesota still had a three-person limit on absentee ballot returns two years ago, but also because turnout in Hennepin County and the Cedar Riverside neighborhood – which has a large Somali population – wasn't actually that high.

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