‘True The Vote’ Put Out A Handbook Encouraging Vigilante Reporting Of Non-Citizen Voting

Donald Trump, True the Vote and other Trump-supporting far-right groups are spreading lies about non-citizen voting ahead of the 2024 election, setting themselves up to declare mass fraud if things don’t go how they want in the fall. 
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True the Vote, the right-wing conspiracy theorist group that spread lies of ballot stuffing in the 2020 election is focused on perpetuating a new lie ahead of 2024: the myth of non-citizens voting in elections. 

The group, which last year admitted before a Fulton County Judge that they had no evidence of any kind to support their baseless ballot stuffing claims that were used in the widely-debunked Dinesh D’souza film “2000 mules,” released a 44-page “advocate handbook.” In it, the group warns against the supposed threat of non-citizens casting ballots in the 2024 election and trains followers on how to combat the issue, which rarely happens in U.S. elections.

But, the handbook — and the larger initiative, which the group calls “The 611 Project,” named after federal law 18 USC 611, which expressly outlaws non-citizen voting in federal elections and outlines criminal penalties for those who do so — is riddled with errors, deliberate omissions of facts, and most glaringly and unsurprisingly, zero evidence to suggest claims that there was or will be non-citizens voting en masse in the upcoming election. True the Vote did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

This new “handbook” from the MAGA group is just one layer of election deniers’ and conspiracy theorists’ revived fixation on non-citizen voting heading into the 2024 election, as Donald Trump and his supporters set themselves up to challenge the election if Trump loses. Last month, House Speaker Mike Johnson and former President Donald Trump promoted a new “election integrity” effort by holding a big press briefing at Mar-a-Lago to announce legislation that would stop non citizens from voting — which is already illegal under federal law. 

David Becker, the executive director and founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, told TPM that True the Vote’s recent efforts are merely a way to cast doubt on the integrity of another election. 

“It’s an attempt to create a false narrative about the security and integrity of an election again, that they think they’re going to lose,” he said. 

It’s also a provably false narrative. Non-citizens have been prevented from voting in federal elections for a long time, and those laws have been augmented by the 2002 Help America Vote Act, passed in response to the 2000 election, which requires all new registrants to provide identification at the polls.

“Our voter lists are more accurate, more secure, more reflective of the eligible voting population than they have ever been in American history,” Becker said. 

True the Vote is not the only group promoting this false narrative and fear mongering about non-citizen voting in 2024 as Trump and his supporters look for ways to keep election denialism as well as immigration and their manufactured crisis at the southern border front and center this campaign season. Last month, the far right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which maintains that sheriffs hold supreme law enforcement authority in the country, held an all-day event which focused in part on the myth of undocumented immigrants voting in November. As WIRED reported, speakers at the event shared guides on how to prevent the “expected flood” of alleged non citizens from casting votes. 

And former Trump advisor Cleta Mitchell has similarly been circulating a memo on the alleged threat of non citizens voting in 2024, per reporting from NPR.

True the Vote’s “The 611 Project” specifically emphasizes “public awareness campaigns” and offers followers guides on how to confirm and report “ineligible” voter records. Experts warn elements of “The 611 Project” are particularly dangerous because they encourage vigilante activity that targets voters based on their race or ethnicity. 

The handbook calls for the implementation of “citizenship verification protocols” in states with same day voter registration, and asks supporters to “help review and report ineligible voter records.” These types of voter challenges are “designed to create the political partisan fear of immigrants,” Becker said. 

The handbook also references a 2021 executive order. The guidebook claims that through that order “the Biden Administration weaponized all agencies of the federal government to push voter registration in populations where eligibility statuses cannot be effectively tracked…” This is a false claim. In reality, the executive order requires that all federal agencies do what they can do to help get information out about the voting process and to help eligible Americans register to vote within the legal limits of each of those agencies. 

“Each agency is going to have a very different capacity to do that,” explained Justin Levitt, professor of law at Loyola Law School. “And so there is this conspiracy theory that isn’t strong enough because it’s not a theory about anything. It’s just a bunch of vibes attached to a piece of paper that this is being used for nefarious purposes and it’s not.”

The handbook, as experts note, also intentionally leaves out key facts about efforts to discourage non-citizen voting in the U.S. For example, it fails to mention a major incentive for non-citizens not to register to vote, which is that voting records are one of the first things that immigration officials check when an immigrant is requesting a status change. 

“The biggest single reason not to vote when you’re a non-citizen is that not only is there a serious criminal penalty attached, and not only is there potential for a serious fine attached, but you can be removed from the country,” said Levitt. 

The document spends a good deal of time simply recounting state laws, but also complains about eligible citizens voting in elections. The guide offers several pages worth of information pointing out what True the Vote identifies as a supposed “loophole” for undocumented immigrant voting and possible “foreign interference.” According to the handbook: “A loophole of which many Americans are unaware, but nonetheless has a significant impact on our federal elections is the fact that in many states, U.S. citizens who were born abroad — and have never resided in the United States — can register to vote through the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Voting Act (UOCAVA).”

It’s true that a feature of American law is that American citizens can vote, even if those citizens haven’t lived permanently in the U.S. So, this section of the handbook isn’t even a complaint about non-citizens voting, but, rather, and more strangely, about legal citizens. The fact that the guidebook spends any amount of time highlighting this, according to Levitt, shows that True the Vote’s effort is “weirdly nativist.”

Eliza Sweren-Becker, senior counsel in the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, similarly described the continued perpetuation of this false narrative of noncitizens voting in 2024 as “yet another misrepresentation and falsehood about the integrity of elections that appears intended to spread mistrust in our election systems.”

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