ATLANTA — The Republican head of Georgia's election board said Tuesday a recently released film alleging ballots were illegally collected and dropped off during the 2020 presidential election falsely suggests there were tens of thousands of illegitimate votes in the state.
Still, State Election Board Chairman Matt Mashburn promised a "fair" investigation of its claims.
"It's not going to be a witch hunt," he said at a meeting of the board. "It's going to be done soberly and with great care by people who know what they're doing."
The movie, called "2000 Mules," paints an ominous picture suggesting Democrat-aligned ballot "mules" were supposedly paid to illegally collect and drop off ballots in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It has been praised by former President Donald Trump as exposing "great election fraud," but election security experts say it is based on faulty assumptions, anonymous accounts and improper analysis of cellphone location data.
Mashburn, who said he watched the film, said it suggested there were 92,000 "illegitimate, manufactured votes" in the state, but he said that's not true. Even if a ballot is illegally dropped off, it goes through the same checks as other ballots to ensure the vote is legitimate, he said.
"A ballot harvested vote might be a perfectly legal vote," he said. "It's just the manner of its delivery was illegal."
The movie uses research from the Texas-based nonprofit True the Vote, which has spent months lobbying states to use its findings to change voting laws. In an email, a representative for True the Vote said the movie presented "a wide variety of information, including summary data from 5 jurisdictions in 5 states, showing only a fraction" of the available evidence.
"It included elements that were not about Georgia at all," Catherine Engelbrecht said.
An investigator with the Secretary of State's office told the board Tuesday that he had investigated three complaints that people had delivered ballots illegally in Georgia and found in each case that the person was legally dropping off ballots of family members. The board dismissed all three cases.
Engelbrecht said True the Vote had also submitted complaints to the Georgia Secretary of State's office, but those had not been investigated.
"We look forward to the advancement of an official investigatory process, based on the full scope of data and video that support our complaints," she said.
One of the video clips the investigator reviewed had appeared in the background of a Fox News program. Republican board member Ed Lindsey cautioned people making the allegations not to publish them before a thorough investigation is completed so as not to "bring into question someone's good name."
"Claiming that someone is committing a crime without fuller investigation carries with it some legal liability as well," he said. "I would like for folks who are simply exercising their right to vote and exercising the right of their family to vote not to have an allegation thrown about."
The board's only Democrat, Sara Ghazal, said the claims in the movie had been "reviewed and refuted by numerous Republican appointed and elected officials."
"The analysis is flawed and there are assertions there that are wholly unsupported by any evidence that I've been provided aside from individual isolated instances that I can count on one hand with fingers to spare," she said. "I've seen no credible evidence of any organized efforts of unauthorized persons delivering ballots let alone widespread invalid votes being cast."
Despite the film's dubious claims, Georgia officials have issued subpoenas to True the Vote to investigate them. Ryan Germany, an attorney for the Secretary of State's office, told the board Tuesday the group has genuine concerns about confidentiality and has not yet turned over information.