In the United States, a conspiracy thesis fuels a movement to monitor ballot boxes – 10/30/2022 at 06:33

A voter places a ballot in a ballot box in Maricopa County, Arizona, August 02, 2022 (GETTY/JUSTIN SULLIVAN)

Those who spend their evening watching the ballot boxes in Arizona claim to act to save democracy and prevent the recurrence in November of the supposed massive fraud which, according to them, would have led to the defeat of Donald Trump in 2020.

But for those responsible for organizing the elections, campaigners for electoral rights and many citizens, the presence of these lookouts above all shows the influence of the conspiratorial thesis of the “rigged” presidential election, conveyed in particular by the documentary “2000 mules”, a few weeks before the mid-term legislative elections.

Directed by Dinesh D’Souza, the feature film released in May, which was a hit at the American box office, claims to reveal the existence of a meticulous operation which, “like a cartel”, would have hired “mules” responsible for stuffing ballot boxes in several American states decisive for the victory of Joe Biden in 2020.

– Bullying –

Contacted by AFP, Mr. D’Souza, who defends his film, whose processes have been questioned by many experts, described the people watching the ballot boxes as “patriots”.

For others, these sentries serve above all to frighten those depositing a ballot. Several complaints of voter intimidation have thus been transmitted to the police by the authorities in charge of the elections in Arizona, in particular that of a voter who had been accused of being “a mule”.

“What differentiates the ‘mule’ allegations from other conspiracy theories is that the activists concluded that they had to take matters into their own hands,” says Jared Holt, a researcher at the Institute for the strategic dialogue established in London.

Multiple investigations have however concluded that there is no electoral fraud in 2020.

Investigators have also shown that a voter, presented as “a mule” in the documentary by Mr. D’Souza, had cast ballots for members of his family in a completely legal way. The man sued the director.

Director Dinesh D'Souza at a rally for Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on May 06, 2022 (GETTY/JEFF SWENSEN)

Director Dinesh D’Souza at a rally for Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on May 06, 2022 (GETTY/JEFF SWENSEN)

Signature verification methods and mandatory voter registration exist to prevent fraud, even in states where a person can vote on behalf of someone else.

“These measures are why there has been no evidence of fraud in 2020 at the advance polls despite efforts to give the impression to the contrary,” said Lorraine Minnite, professor of political science at the Rutgers University.

“You can make a ballot for Mickey Mouse but if Mickey Mouse is not registered on the electoral lists, his vote will not be taken into account,” she continues.

– Pandora’s box –

Despite its presentation of circumstantial evidence, such as the highly contested use of anonymized location data supposed to show the whereabouts of the “mules”, and its hasty conclusions dismantled by experts, the film “2000 mules” shown in meetings of Donald Trump and cinemas across the country resonated strongly with supporters of the former president.

The phrase “ballot mules” appeared more than 324,000 times on Twitter between January and October, and the title of the film 2.3 million times, according to Zignal Labs.

“Potential mules beware: we’re watching the polls across the state,” Kari Lake, Republican gubernatorial candidate in Arizona, tweeted in July.

Clean Elections USA, one of the groups coordinating ballot box vigils in that state, says on its website that its mission is to prevent the fraud depicted in Dinesh D’Souza’s film.

“Your mere presence and the fact that the mule knows it will be caught on your many cameras is enough of a deterrent for them to lurk in the dark again,” said founder Melody Jennings, a follower of the QAnon conspiratorial movement. , in August on Donald Trump’s Truth Social platform.

Two armed people near a ballot box in Mesa, Arizona, October 21, 2022 (Maricopa County Elections Department/)

Two armed people near a ballot box in Mesa, Arizona, October 21, 2022 (Maricopa County Elections Department/)

Disseminating photos of voters and spreading rumors could lead to more misinformation, warns Lorraine Minnite.

“People are going to be led to see this as evidence of fraud if they already think it’s happening,” she notes. “It’s like opening Pandora’s box.”

Some politicians encourage ballot watchers, such as Republican Mark Finchem, candidate for the post of Secretary of State of Arizona, in charge of organizing the elections.

Donald Trump, for his part, reposted on Truth Social to his 4.4 million subscribers a message from Melody Jennings claiming that the ballot box drop boxes were invaded by “mules doing their thing”.

The Republican billionaire also shared posts from Ms. Jennings, who did not respond to AFP’s requests, showing photos of voters posting their ballots.


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