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Police investigating ballot harvesting allegations following Project Veritas videos involving Ilhan Omar

Police investigating ballot harvesting allegations following Project Veritas videos involving Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Minneapolis Police Department said it's investigating “allegations of voter fraud” after a conservative activist group released videos that provide insight into an alleged illegal vote-buying scheme tied to Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. 

In a statement Monday responding to the videos released by Project Veritas, the MPD said it has been made “aware of the allegations of vote harvesting” and is “in the process of looking into the validity of those statements.”

“No further information is available at this time on this,” the department stated. 

On Sunday, the undercover group Project Veritas, founded by James O'Keefe in 2010, sent shockwaves across the U.S. political system when it released findings from its undercover investigation into the campaign of Omar, a Somali American who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. 

On Monday, the group released a second video that shows a ballot harvester affiliated with Omar paying for ballots. 

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In the first video, O’Keefe says he's exposing a “voter fraud ring so widespread that many members of the Somali community here consider it an open secret.” 

“Our sources inside the Somali community here allege that the architect of this pay-for-vote scheme is none other than U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar,” he said. 

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The group shared a video that featured comments from “insider” Omar Jamal, who secretly recorded dozens of conversations to “expose vote by mail fraud” in the Minneapolis area. 

Among the clips released in the first two Project Veritas videos is a social media clip of a man bragging about his car being filled with 300 absentee ballots (some still open) that were to be cast in support of Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman, who was victorious in an August special election. 

The group also published a surreptitiously recorded video that shows a man buying a ballot from a voter with “pocket money.” O’Keefe said the amount was $200. 

“I think Ilhan Omar is one of the people behind all this mess,” Jamal, chairman of the Somali Watchdog group, said. “And they have a lot of people that work for them that tasks get carried out and ballots collected. This is the cash money, exchanging hands.” 

“It’s an open secret that everybody knows it but they don’t talk about it,” Jamal added, stating that 80,000 immigrant voters will “swing this election to one side.”

“They became the focus of this and millions of dollars are spent to make sure these 80,000 or 100,000 immigrant votes go one way.” 

An anonymous source who was identified as a former political worker in Minneapolis told the organization that Omar’s campaign deputy district director, Ali Isse Gainey, coordinated a ballot harvesting initiative targeting elderly people in the Charles Horn Towers in Minneapolis before the state’s primary election in August. 

“They were carrying bags of money,” the anonymous individual was quoted as saying. “When you vote and they mark you off, then you get in the van, they give you cash.”  

The video also featured a recorded conversation between Jamal and a person identified as Osman Ali Dahquane. 

Dahquane was quoted as saying he received $800 for his ballot and does not care if it is “illegal.”

"Nobody would say that Ilhan Omar isn't part of this,” Jamal contended. “Unless you're from a different planet, but if you live in this universe, I think everybody knows it."

Project Veritas’ videos have garnered many responses from conservatives and President Donald Trump. The president called for the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota to review the allegations.

Through a spokesperson, Omar denied the claims that the people shown in the videos were connected to her campaign. 

“The amount of truth to this story is equal to the amount Donald Trump paid in taxes of ten out of the last fifteen years: zero,” Omar’s senior communications director, Jeremy Slevin, said in a statement shared with media outlets. “And amplifying a coordinated right-wing campaign to delegitimize a free and fair election this fall undermines our democracy.”

Even though some critics contend that the video of the man in his car with hundreds of election ballots violates state law, a court order earlier this year lifted the state’s three-person limit on turning in other people’s ballots. The ruling allowed people in the primary election to collect and submit an unlimited number of ballots. However, the state’s three-ballot limit was reinstated for the general election in November. 

Federal law prohibits the use of expenditures to influence voters. 

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office said in a statement that it had not received information regarding allegations of ballot harvesting. 

According to local news outlet KSTP, Republican state Rep. Steve Drazkowski said he contacted Project Veritas after the allegation was brought to his attention. 

In an interview with TheBlaze’s Glenn Beck, independent journalist David Steinberg said he was made aware of allegations of a vote-buying scheme in Minnesota since 2018. 

“Locally, it's been known since 2016, her first election. It was simply an open secret. This reached me and Scott Johnson at Power Line,” he said. “I believe we have been hearing this since late 2018 regarding her [Omar] having arranged a massive vote-buying campaign in her primary win in 2016, the general in 2016, which is when she was elected as a state representative, and then again in 2018. It was the primary and the general when she was voted to Congress.”

He asserted that the program is “not new” and is “massive.”   

“If a candidate is caught bribing a voter for as little as a candy bar, you could be facing five years in prison,” Steinberg said. “Now, we are talking about hundreds, perhaps thousands of votes over at least four elections.” 

Steinberg, who used to work as an editor for the conservative news outlet PJ Media, believes there is “plenty” of published “video evidence.” 

“This was given to the FBI, I can confirm, earlier this year,” he said. “Giving false information to the FBI is a felony itself. We had locals who were willing to give us information face-to-face to the FBI early this year regarding these four prior elections.”

“Now, we did not have any concrete evidence. All we had was several people confirming this,” he added. “Now, again early this year after speaking with the FBI, someone said, ‘You know, let’s call James O’Keefe, get him down here and see if he can catch them in the act this year.’ And as you can see, he was successful and we now have our foot in the door. With proof of her doing it this year, we can go back and look at 2016 and 2018.”

Steinberg said he is “very confident” about the direction the investigation will head.

KMSP investigative reporter Tom Lyden pushed back against the notion that the Project Veritas videos offer any sort of concrete evidence. He argued that the “hard evidence of cash in exchange for votes was lacking” in the videos. 

He believes that “some of the other conduct of collecting ballots might be perfectly legal.”

“[T]he full context of the video [of the man sitting in his car filled with ballots] is unclear,” Lyden contends. “Were the ballots sealed? Had they already been filled out? Where did the ballots come from?” 

“And the timing of that video may be critical. The practice of turning in ballots that are not your own – or, ‘harvesting’ – was in flux this summer with three separate court decisions,” he added. “Historically in Minnesota, there has been a three-person limit for bringing in other people’s ballots. But in July a district court ruling invalidated that limitation. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the ruling in September, but that was after the primary on August 11.”

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