True the Vote is a Houston-based vote-monitoring nonprofit with a mission to stop voter fraud, “keep elections free and fair,” and ensure “election integrity.” The organization was founded in 2009 by Catherine Englebrecht, who currently serves as its president. She is also president of a high-precision oilfield machine shop she cofounded in 1994 with her husband, Bryan. True the Vote is the offshoot of another Englebrecht-founded organization, the Tea Party-affiliated King Street Patriots.
True the Vote advocates for all aspects of voting and electoral procedure, from “getting voters registered all the way, to supporting election code reforms….” This has included developing software designed to identify “electoral irregularities” (such as households with six or more voters).
True the Vote is known for spreading disinformation. In 2012, the organization claimed that then-Attorney General Eric Holder supported an NAACP request for the United Nations to get involved in U.S. elections, asking, “Are you ready to have U.N. blue helmets outside your polling place?” In determining that True the Vote’s assertion had been made without any evidence whatsoever, Politifact gave it a rating of “Pants on Fire!”
In March 2021, True the Vote bragged about its partnership with the Georgia GOP before the party was accused of taking illegal in-kind donations from True the Vote in a FEC complaint filed by lawyers for Campaign Legal Center Action and Common Cause Georgia.
The Big Lie
- Prior to the 2020 election, True the Vote spent six figures on a national ad campaign that warned of “chaos” if votes were not cast in person. The campaign included the warning that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could become president if people didn’t vote in person.
- True the Vote claimed that anonymized cell phone data it paid $2 million to obtain showed evidence of “ballot harvesting” that amounted to voter fraud. Gathering data from five swing states, True the Vote said that 2,000 users were geolocated in the immediate vicinity of 10 or more ballot drop boxes and five or more liberal nonprofits. In addition, the organization claimed that it corroborated its cell phone data with videos of ballot drop boxes. However, telecom experts pointed out that the data gathered could not pinpoint any of these users close enough to the drop boxes, and the video footage failed to capture any individuals using multiple drop boxes. In September 2021, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation also told True the Vote and the Georgia GOP that its geotracking data “does not rise to the level of probable cause that a crime has been committed.”
- The unsupported conclusions drawn by True the Vote from its geotracking exercise were nevertheless widely amplified by other proponents of the Big Lie. Following the second public hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection, Trump released a statement attempting to rebut the accusations against him. “It’s also highly likely that True the Vote did not uncover 100% of the mules,” he exclaimed, “making the numbers much larger than a landslide in scope, and that there were many more mules out there affecting more of the Election than we realize.” True the Vote’s claims were also featured in the Dinesh D’Souza film 2000 Mules, which the director calls “smoking gun” evidence of voter fraud.
- In 2020, North Carolina money manager Fred Eshelman donated $2.5 million to True the Vote for a project called Validate the Vote, expecting the organization to file lawsuits in several swing states with perceived voting irregularities. But when True the Vote dropped its lawsuits before the end of November 2020, Eshelman sued, claiming “he ‘regularly and repeatedly’ asked for updates on the project but his ‘requests were consistently met with vague responses, platitudes, and empty promises.'”
Post-2020 Election Subversion
- In July 2020, True the Vote partnered with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and another right-leaning sheriffs’ group, Protect America Now, to not only investigate baseless claims of fraud in the upcoming presidential election, but to more aggressively police future elections. At a meeting in Las Vegas, True the Vote officials said they would raise money to help sheriffs expand surveillance at polling places and drop boxes during the fall election. The coalition launched a website to raise funds and disseminate its action plan.
- Following a legislative hearing at the Arizona Senate in May 2022 in which True the Vote representatives presented “evidence” of illegal voting practices, state Sen. Kelly Townsend (R) called on “vigilanties” to spy on voters casting ballots at drop boxes and even follow them to their cars.