Minneapolis police have started investigating reports of voter fraud after an undercover video emerged allegedly featuring associates of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar collecting absentee ballots.
As part of investigative reports by conservative media outlet Project Veritas, its founder James O’Keefe claimed that in a blatantly illegal move, Omar’s supporters “harvested” ballots, with city resident Liban Mohamed reportedly being one of those campaigners.
Filmed political operative Omar Jamal alleged he had collected as many as 300 ballots, largely from elderly and disabled Somali immigrants, to back his brother Jamal Osman, running for a vacant Ward 6 City Council race, simultaneously with Omar’s MN-05 congressional campaign.
Ward 6 was treated as the heart of Minneapolis’ Somali community and hence the personal political base of the Somali-born naturalised Omar, it has been claimed. As a person alleged to be Mohamed is also heard in the video saying “money is everything, money is the king of this world”, Republicans say that could indicate a cash-for-ballot scheme was being exploited, though there’s no direct evidence in the videos of money being exchanged for ballots. Following the Project Veritas reports, President Trump instantly took to Twitter demanding that the Justice Department scrupulously look into Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota for alleged “ballot harvesting”.
© AP Photo / Alex Brandon
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, looks at a paper held by President Donald Trump about Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., as Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Washington
Mohamed later struck back accusing O’Keefe on Twitter of spreading “fake news” and claiming it is not him in the Snapchat videos Project Veritas claimed it obtained from early July.
Jeremy Slevin, senior communications director for Omar, weighed in on the debate claiming “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”.
He slammed the Project Veritas investigation, saying that “amplifying a coordinated right-wing campaign to delegitimise a free and fair election this fall undermines our democracy”.
The aforementioned councilman Jamal Osman likewise called out the allegations, writing at length on Facebook:
“Throughout my campaign, I let my staff, volunteers, and supporters know my values including the type of race I wanted to run”, he asserted portraying his campaign as “positive and ethical” and incompatible with “behaviour that contradicts these values”.
In the meantime, so-called “ballot collection” is legally permitted in most US states. In Minnesota, a key swing state this year, a third party is entitled to collect and deliver no more than three absentee ballots.
The widespread practice remains the subject of a fierce partisan debate, with the GOP suspecting that collecting ballots, along with mail-in voting, likely come with back doors for fraud.
© AP Photo / Tony Dejak
Applications for voter ballots are seen at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Cleveland
Donald Trump and his administration have energetically called to restrict the schemes as mail-in voting is gaining momentum during this tumultuous time, for the practices not to unlawfully play into his Democratic rivals’ hands.
The showdown over the legality of such practices has recently seen Republicans and Democrats even square off in lawsuits over third party involvement in the collection of ballots in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Minnesota.