KEYSTONE CROSSROADS — A Virginia-based former high-level Trump campaign staffer is crowdfunding an effort to use a call center to fish for accounts of alleged voter fraud in Pennsylvania and other swing states.
The Voter Integrity Fund was launched a week ago by Matt Braynard, who says he’s raised over $500,000 to cross-reference public data in a quest to unearth malfeasance in the election.
“We’re focusing on areas with exceptionally high Democratic turnout,” he said. “This is an effort to better establish whether the election was legitimate.”
Voter ID proponents and other conservative political groups have long struggled to produce hard evidence of mass voter fraud. But Braynard said his group was using a call center to track down people who moved or were otherwise nominally inactive voters, asking them to confirm if they cast a ballot in order to detect possible identity theft. He said he is also cross-referencing databases to find voters that may have cast ballots in the wrong place, voted twice, or were deceased.
The effort moved to a Christian crowdfunding website after another fundraising platform, GoFundMe, “nuked” his initial fundraising effort, said Braynard, who was laid off in 2016 from his job on the Trump campaign’s data team. He asserted that he “will personally receive zero dollars” from the project.
Braynard declined to detail any specific instances of voter fraud uncovered so far, but described high levels of interest in his effort.
“I posted last Thursday to my … Twitter followers about ways to detect if there were fraudulent ballots and it exploded from there,” he said.
The group claims to have called 75,000 people in Pennsylvania and hopes to reach 375,000.
Several Pennsylvanians apparently contacted by the Voter Integrity Fund say they voted normally and described the call as suspicious.
Zach DeRitis, a 29-year-old communications worker in South Philly, said he was confused by a voicemail he received from the group asking if he had voted by mail or in person.
“I was a little concerned about how they had my number or what they would ask me,” said DeRitis, who did vote by mail.
When a WHYY reporter who received a call from the Voter Integrity Fund asked who was behind the group, the caller said they were “free to Google it.” When pressed for more information, the caller hung up.
Others reported similar interactions, with callers indicating that they were investigating voter fraud in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona.
‘The real fraud’
The Trump campaign and its supporters have for days sought to undermine Joe Biden’s presidential victory with baseless claims of voter fraud. In this instance, Jamie Mogil, a Democratic election attorney, dismissed Baynard’s fishing strategy as a “scam.”
“It sounds like a credit card scam. It’s like how they harp on the elderly and seniors,” she said. “Even if this were some valid argument, it’s so rare it wouldn’t be enough to overturn an election. This guy and his scheme to intimidate voters is the real fraud.”
While the group asserts it is searching for deceased voters or victims of identity theft, Mogil said illegal voting is exceedingly rare, noting that the ballots challenged by the Trump campaign itself have largely focused on procedural issues, like missing signatures.
The attorney cast doubt that civilians were better suited to investigate election irregularities than trained law enforcement. She noted that one of the group’s strategies — matching voting and postal records to search for out-of-state voters — was a particularly quixotic method for challenging ballots.
“Under this guy’s system, the president would have a residency issue,” she said. “He tried to vote from Mar-a-Lago.”
Asked why his group is better suited to track down supposed fraudsters than law enforcement, Braynard said they were not trustworthy, “given the level of political corruption in the FBI and CIA,” pointing to their investigations of President Donald Trump.
DeRitis said he was troubled by the call because it gave him the impression that something might be wrong with his ballot or that there had been widespread voter fraud.
“It definitely felt like a bit of a fishing expedition. There is clearly an initiative out there to invalidate the results of the election in key states and areas,” he said. “If there is someone out there trying to find information or collect information in a very unofficial capacity I think that definitely creates an issue or raises alarm bells.”
Keystone Crossroads is a statewide reporting collaborative of WITF, WPSU and WESA, led by WHYY. This story originally appeared at https://whyy.org/programs/keystone-crossroads.