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A documentary alleged massive voter fraud involving ballot drop boxes and cellphone location data, based on several hundred phones passing by drop boxes with unusual frequency.
Investigators say drop boxes are placed in busy areas, and it’s no surprise that certain people will pass nearby more often than others. Bill Barr reiterated that viewpoint in testimony to the Jan. 6 committee.
Former Attorney General William Barr denigrated evidence of voter fraud presented in the documentary "2000 Mules" as "singularly unimpressive" during his interview with House committee investigators looking into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
The film from right-wing filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza tried to make the case that massive fraud took place in the 2020 presidential election. Specifically, it argued that 2,000 people collected 400,000 illegal votes and delivered them to vote drop boxes in key states that went for Joe Biden.
As Barr detailed in the second House Jan. 6 hearing this month, D’Souza’s documentary does not prove its claims.
Former President Donald Trump embraced many conspiracy theories to explain his election loss — voting machines in Venezuela, a suitcase of ballots smuggled in Georgia — that were debunked almost as quickly as he made them. The claims in "2000 Mules" are relatively fresh since the film debuted in theaters in May 2022, with clips still spreading across social media.
As the hearing opened, vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., quoted an editorial from the New York Post — typically a conservative newspaper — that said Trump "clings to more fantastical theories, such as Dinesh D’Souza’s debunked ‘2,000 Mules,’ even as recounts in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin confirm Trump lost."
The committee then played video of Barr disparaging the movie and taking aim at the film’s reliance on cellphone data.
Research by Texas-based True the Vote, a national organization that has spread misinformation about voting in the past, claimed to show that certain people repeatedly passed by certain drop boxes. These repeat visits, they argued, revealed a set of delivery runs.
Barr said the data revealed nothing at all.
"If you take 2 million cellphones and figure out where they are physically in a big city like Atlanta or wherever, just by definition, you will find many hundreds of them have passed by and spent time in the vicinity of these boxes," Barr said.
Drop boxes are placed in busy places to make voting convenient. Inevitably, many people will pass by drop boxes several times. Barr said one firm told him that a single one of its trucks would account for six cellphone signals near one drop box or another.
This wasn’t just Barr’s take. State officials said cellphone data showing 279 cellphones tracked multiple times within 100 feet of an absentee drop box was not evidence of a crime, Georgia Public Radio reported.
The documentary also used video footage to show the people delivering ballots to drop boxes. Barr said the photographic evidence was "lacking."
"It didn't establish widespread illegal harvesting," Barr said.
In 31 states, someone other than the voter — often a family member or designated person — is allowed to return a completed ballot on behalf of another voter, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states only allow the voter to return the ballot, while others do not explicitly specify who may or may not return a ballot on behalf of a voter.
Barr said that without evidence that the vote was coerced, or filled out by someone other than the voter, courts have no reason to discard a ballot as illegal.
If there had been a scheme employing people to collect ballots, it would likely have come to light by now, Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist, told PolitiFact in May.
"There would be a paper trail and social media trail, and there would be some witnesses out there to verify this was going on," McDonald said.
Staff writer Grace Abels contributed research.
RELATED: The faulty premise of the ‘2,000 mules’ trailer about voting by mail in the 2020 election
PBS, Jan. 6 Committee hearings - Day 2, June 13, 2022
New York Post, Donald Trump, Democrats are obsessed with 2020 — GOP should look to the future, june 10, 2022
National Conference of State Legislatures, Ballot drop box laws, Feb. 14, 2022
Fox Business, Dinesh D’Souza details compelling new documentary, April 28, 2022
Newsweek, Film Claims It Has Video of "Mules" Stuffing Ballot Boxes in 2020 Election, March 2, 2022
PolitiFact, The faulty premise of the ‘2,000 mules’ trailer about voting by mail in the 2020 election, May 4, 2022
Phone interview, Michael P. McDonald, professor of political science at the University of Florida, May 2, 2022