Ten days before Georgia’s Senate runoff election in 2021, Gamaliel Warren Turner Sr., a 69-year-old veteran, found out that someone in his county had challenged his eligibility to vote. Turner, a retired major in the US Army, had requested an absentee ballot, and when it didn’t arrive in the mail, he got nervous and called the Muscogee County registrar’s office to figure out where it was. According to court records, Turner was informed by a clerk that his name was included on a list of thousands in the county who were subject to investigation.
“I was beyond irate. I was hollering,” Turner says. “I didn’t know what the hell a voter challenge was. I just wanted to know, am I going to be able to vote or not?”
Turner has been a Georgia resident his whole life. He’s voted in almost every election in Georgia over the last 50 years. The property he owns is his home. All utility bills are paid by him. He has a Georgia driver’s license that he uses to drive his two cars, both registered in Muscogee County. In 2019, however, his job called for him to temporarily move to Camarillo (California). To avoid losing packages during his work trip, he did the same thing millions of Americans every year: he notified USPS that he would like his mail to be forwarded to another address.
What Turner didn’t know at the time was that this simple notification to the USPS would enmesh him in a scheme dreamed up by a right-wing activist group called True the Vote that ended up challenging the voter registrations of 364,000 Georgians.
It is best known for their work with the debunked film 2000 MulesTrue the Vote developed an algorithm to match names on voter rolls and data from the USPS that included information about people who moved addresses. The group’s goal was to aggressively cull voter rolls, under the suspicion that inaccurate registrations lead to voter fraud, which is extremely rare in the US.
Along with Turner’s, True the Vote sent the names of approximately 4,000 supposedly ineligible voters to the leader of the Republican Party in Muscogee County, Alton Russell, a toilet paper salesman, who in turn submitted them to the county Board of Elections to challenge their voter registrations. But the scheme didn’t work: Most of the counties in Georgia rejected True the Vote’s challenges, and Turner successfully sued the Muscogee County Board of Elections to ensure his ballot would be counted in the 2021 runoff election.
True the Vote quietly launched an app, IV3, to help replicate the process across the country. According to the group, hundreds of thousands of voters registered using the browser-based app. But little is known about IV3. However, the app is not available in many states. To gain access to True the Vote, you will need to present True to Vote and a valid ID. WIRED managed to figure out how this tool works by analysing code IV3. We found the app’s final method of determining who should stay on the rolls is inefficient and inconsistent. Experts say that the app weaponizes public data and is more likely to remove eligible voters from the rolls than it is to catch rampant fraud that doesn’t exist in this country.