Dem wants poll-watching group's data

Less than three weeks before the election, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is demanding more documents from a conservative group that claims to be battling instances of voter fraud throughout the country.

But Cummings contends the real goal of True the Vote is to stop legal voters — mostly in minority communities — from casting ballots, by deploying hundreds of thousands of volunteers to intimidate them.

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As the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Cummings also raised concerns in a letter on Thursday to Catherine Engelbrecht, True the Vote’s founder, about the group’s ties to the Republican Party.

“There is mounting evidence that True the Vote's aggressive poll monitoring tactics are being coordinated closely with the Republican Party,” said Cummings in his letter.

Cummings pointed to reports that True the Vote gave $5,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee in August. He also cited a report of a Democrat being turned away from a True the Vote “poll watcher” training class because of his party affiliation.

“If you continue to deny that your organization is challenging thousands of legitimate voters across the country for partisan political purposes — then you should have no reason to withhold documents from Congress about your activities,” wrote Cummings. 

Engelbrecht has yet to respond to Cummings’s letter on Thursday, but in a response to an Oct. 4 letter he sent to the group, the True the Vote head questioned the lawmaker’s facts and defended the group’s purpose and cause as being necessary to ensure fair and accurate voting.

“[Your allegations] demonstrate a second-hand knowledge or poor staff-researched understanding of our organization’s activities,” wrote Engelbrecht.

Cummings has asked for the locations of the various polling sites where True the Vote is planning to deploy volunteers and how many volunteers are expected to be sent out on Election Day.

He also requested copies of the group’s “poll watcher” training materials, and all of the organization’s correspondence with political parties relating to its poll monitoring.

Engelbrecht has not made any of the organization’s internal documents available to the committee yet, but has offered to come in for an interview with Cummings and his staff.

True The Vote has turned over nearly 100 separate cases of alleged voter fraud for authorities in New York, Ohio, Florida and Rhode Island for investigation, according to Engelbrecht.

But Cummings said claims about the group’s activities in Wisconsin and Texas, where allegations of voter intimidation have surfaced, are incredibly disturbing.

During the recall election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, The New York Times reported that a member of True the Vote was identified as disturbing the registration and voting process for students at Lawrence University, causing large delays in the lines.

Engelbrecht shot down the accusations, writing in a letter to Cummings that the group took action after learning that the state’s Government Accountability Board “publicly stated it had no intention to verify any signatures prior to official certification.”

True the Vote’s actions at the polling stations were an attempt to carry out the government’s responsibility of verifying the identity of voters, according to Engelbrecht.

The issue of voter suppression and voter fraud has risen to new levels in this election cycle, with many states moving to require voters to show valid government-issued IDs before they are allowed to vote. Democrats and the Justice Department argue that these attempts unfairly affect poor people, who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates.