Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before: New O'Keefe Video Is Misleading

Blog ››› ››› TODD GREGORY

James O'Keefe has released another video showing his associates visiting polling places in Washington, D.C., and asking for ballots in the name of prominent political and media figures. Once again, the only thing it proves is something that is widely known: The District of Columbia doesn't have a restrictive voter ID law.

Nor does the video change the fact that, leaving aside silly stunts, widespread voter fraud is extremely rare, and there are still legitimate concerns that voter ID laws disenfranchise eligible voters.

The title of the newest YouTube video is " 'Ben Jealous', 'Bill Maher', and 'David Brock' Offered Ballot in Nation's Capitol [sic]":

Actually, you'll have to take O'Keefe's word for that. (I wouldn't recommend it.) In the four-and-a-half-minute video, it's not clear if any ballots are shown at all.

The major stars of O'Keefe's previous videos -- confusing edits, unintelligible audio, and questionably accurate subtitles -- all are back in this edition.

In the first scene, O'Keefe's associate apparently inquires about a ballot under the name of Jealous, the president of the NAACP. But it's unclear what the associate said while asking for the ballot, because O'Keefe introduces the scene by saying that his people had gone into polling locations in the District of Columbia on April 3 and "stated the names of well-known media and political figures."

O'Keefe then explains, "First, there was Ben Jealous. The poll worker recognized the name and rightly identified him as head of the NAACP, but went ahead and offered us to vote by special ballot."

As the video at the polling place cuts in, O'Keefe's associate is spelling "Jealous," as is one of the poll workers.

It's hard to tell what exactly is happening from the footage, which is broken up by edits:

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: J-E-A-L --

MALE POLL WORKER: J-E-A-L --

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Are you related to Mr. Jealous -- NAACP?

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Not as far as I know, actually.

FEMALE POLL WORKER: I think his name is Ben Jealous as well.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Is it really?

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Uh-huh.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Wow.

[video break]

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Is this -- you voted here in this precinct before?

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: No, actually.

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Oh, OK. Then give -- Phillip, he needs to fill out one of these.

MALE POLL WORKER: OK, you have to have a special ballot.

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Yeah, yeah.

MALE POLL WORKER: [unintelligible] not on the --

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: OK, so I'm not on the list, but I --

MALE POLL WORKER: -- on the list.

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Yeah, but you can vote. But he's not on the [unintelligible].

MALE POLL WORKER: You can vote, but [unintelligible]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: The name isn't on the list? OK.

[video break]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: I actually -- I burned my hand sealcoating driveways, so --

MALE POLL WORKER: Well, take it back to the special ballot [unintelligible]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: -- if -- let's say, if my signature doesn't match, like, any sort of official signature, do you compare it --

MALE POLL WORKER: No, she'll take care of that, back at special ballot.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Do you compare it to any other signature?

MALE POLL WORKER: Just take it back there, yeah.

The male poll worker is holding out a sheet of paper at the end of the scene. But nobody in the video clearly identifies what it is -- again, you can't really tell what's going on because of the edits.

And note that this scene results in O'Keefe's associate being offered a "special ballot." After airing that clip, O'Keefe points out: "Once the special ballot was submitted, the board would have to determine that we would be eligible to vote in this election, and then the vote would be counted." It seems unlikely that this stunt with Jealous' name could possibly have resulted in a ballot that was actually counted. That casts doubt on O'Keefe's argument that voter ID is necessary to guard against fraudulent votes being cast.

In the other two scenes with O'Keefe's male associate, it doesn't appear that any ballot can be seen. The poll workers do, however, offer to let him sign the voter rolls.

In a statement put out by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics after the release of O'Keefe's earlier D.C. video, Republican member Stephen Danzansky said that doing so would be a "criminal offense":

This Board of Elections will grant zero tolerance to anyone tampering with the vital processes and standards by which District of Columbia voters exercise their franchise, including identifying themselves as a registered voter, affirming their qualifications to vote, and receiving and casting a ballot. The falsification or attempted falsification of any of the above is a criminal offense.

So, to improperly receive a ballot -- let alone vote with it -- you'd be committing a crime.

O'Keefe introduces the second scene by saying, "Then, we used the name Bill Maher. Bill Maher does not live in Washington, D.C. We went ahead and used his name anyway. Turns out, there was a different Bill Maher, and we were offered that other Bill Maher's ballot to vote."

The exchange is fairly brief, and the poll worker explains that she doesn't need a voter ID because she had already asked for his name and address.

In the third scene, O'Keefe's associate uses the name of Media Matters founder David Brock, but O'Keefe cautions: "We could not determine if this was the actual David Brock, or just someone with the same name. Nevertheless, neither could the poll worker who offered a ballot to us anyway."

If that happened, it's not shown in the video. The scene ends with O'Keefe's man saying, "I don't have my ID," and the poll worker responding, "That's all right. What's your name?"

The video then cuts to the O'Keefe associate asking a security guard to be let into Media Matters' offices without ID. The guard tells him that if he doesn't have a contact in the office and doesn't have ID, he won't be let in. This was apparently supposed to suggest hypocrisy on the part of Media Matters. I know this because the exchange was punctuated with a seemingly piquant clip of right-wing bogeyman Saul Alinsky.

There is an important point to be made here: Entering Media Matters' offices is not actually a constitutionally protected activity. Voting, on the other hand, is. The 15th Amendment prohibits state and federal governments from denying Americans the right to vote based on race.

This is one of the major concerns that voting-rights advocates raise about voter ID laws -- that they disproportionately disenfranchise voters based on their race.

The video's final scene at a polling place involves a female O'Keefe associate. O'Keefe narrates: "When we said the name of Alicia Menendez, the poll worker actually asked us for ID. Because they asked us for identification, they prevented us from being offered Alicia Menendez's ballot."

Actually, they prevented his associate from committing a crime by affirming her qualifications to vote with a signature -- before she ever put her hands on a ballot.

Full transcript of the video, which was posted April 16 on Project Veritas' YouTube account:

O'KEEFE: On April 3, Project Veritas went into poll locations throughout the District of Columbia and stated the name of well-known media and political figures, including Ben Jealous, David Brock, and Bill Maher. First, there was Ben Jealous. The poll worker recognized the name and rightly identified him as head of the NAACP, but went ahead and offered us to vote by special ballot.

[begin video clip]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: J-E-A-L --

MALE POLL WORKER: J-E-A-L --

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Are you related to Mr. Jealous -- NAACP?

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Not as far as I know, actually.

FEMALE POLL WORKER: I think his name is Ben Jealous as well.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Is it really?

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Uh-huh.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Wow.

[video break]

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Is this -- you voted here in this precinct before?

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: No, actually.

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Oh, OK. Then give -- Phillip, he needs to fill out one of these.

MALE POLL WORKER: OK, you have to have a special ballot.

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Yeah, yeah.

MALE POLL WORKER: [unintelligible] not on the --

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: OK, so I'm not on the list, but I --

MALE POLL WORKER: -- on the list.

FEMALE POLL WORKER: Yeah, but you can vote. But he's not on the [unintelligible].

MALE POLL WORKER: You can vote, but [unintelligible]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: The name isn't on the list? OK.

[video break]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: I actually -- I burned my hand sealcoating driveways, so --

MALE POLL WORKER: Well, take it back to the special ballot [unintelligible]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: -- if -- let's say, if my signature doesn't match, like, any sort of official signature, do you compare it --

MALE POLL WORKER: No, she'll take care of that, back at special ballot.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Do you compare it to any other signature?

MALE POLL WORKER: Just take it back there, yeah.

[end video clip]

O'KEEFE: Once the special ballot was submitted, the board would have to determine that we would be eligible to vote in this election, and then the vote would be counted.

Then, we used the name Bill Maher. Bill Maher does not live in Washington, D.C. We went ahead and used his name anyway. Turns out, there was a different Bill Maher, and we were offered that other Bill Maher's ballot to vote.

[begin video clip]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Do you have a Bill Maher?

[video break]

POLL WORKER: If you could just sign on that dotted line, please.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: I actually forgot my ID. I think I left it in the car.

POLL WORKER: You don't need it if you're in the book.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Are you sure?

POLL WORKER: Mm-hmm.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: I don't need an ID?

POLL WORKER: Not -- if you're in the book, you don't need it in D.C.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: You don't?

POLL WORKER: No. Because -- that's why I asked you your name and your address.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Do you mind if I get an ID?

[end video clip]

O'KEEFE: Then we used the name David Brock -- president of Media Matters. We could not determine if this was the actual David Brock, or just someone with the same name. Nevertheless, neither could the poll worker who offered a ballot to us anyway.

[begin video clip]

[crosstalk]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: The name? The name? The name is David Brock. Do you have a David Brock?

POLL WORKER: OK.

[video break]

POLL WORKER: Print your name out right here on this.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: My hand's kind of tied up at the moment.

OFF-CAMERA VOICE: Literally.

POLL WORKER: Yeah, OK.

[video break]

POLL WORKER: If you could make an X or whatever would do.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: An X would suffice?

POLL WORKER: Whatever -- you know, with your hand here.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: But it won't -- you won't be able to compare it to my normal signature.

POLL WORKER: Oh, we don't compare anyway.

[video break]

SECOND POLL WORKER: [unintelligible] It don't have to be perfect.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: It doesn't?

SECOND POLL WORKER: No. [unintelligible] as long as you put something down.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Oh, I'm capable of writing with my left hand. It just isn't going to look right.

[crosstalk]

POLL WORKER: Oh, I mean, you do what you can, yeah.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: You don't care? You just need a mark.

POLL WORKER: Yeah -- and I'm going to print his name --

[crosstalk]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: I don't have my ID.

POLL WORKER: That's all right. What's your name?

[end video clip]

[begin video clip]

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: I was wondering if I could go up to Media Matters?

SECURITY GUARD: Who's your contact?

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: I don't have one, and I don't have an ID either, but I was wondering -- I'm a huge Media Matters fan.

SECURITY GUARD: Well, you can't go up unless you have an ID and --

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: You can't go up without an ID?

SECURITY GUARD: No.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: But what I love about Media Matters is the stuff that they've written about voter ID laws and how they're discriminatory.

SECURITY GUARD: [unintelligible] but I can't let you up there. You need to have a contact.

MALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: I need -- do I need an ID?

SECURITY GUARD: You need to have ID--

[end video clip]

SAUL ALINSKY [video clip]: One of the most effective tactics is making you live up to your own book of rules. They've got to live by their own book of rules.

JEALOUS [video clip]: More states have passed more laws pushing more citizens in our country out of the ballot box --

POLL WORKER [video clip]: He needs to fill out one of these.

O'KEEFE: When we said the name of Alicia Menendez, the poll worker actually asked us for ID. Because they asked us for identification, they prevented us from being offered Alicia Menendez's ballot.

[begin video clip]

POLL WORKER: Does she need any kind of ID?

SECOND POLL WORKER: You should have some form of ID, yes.

FEMALE O'KEEFE ASSOCIATE: Oh, I need an ID? OK, I -- it's out in the car. I'll run and get it.

SECOND POLL WORKER: OK, that's fine.

[end video clip]

O'KEEFE: Coming up next.

[begin audio clip]

AUTOMATED MESSAGE: Welcome to the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics.

[break]

O'KEEFE: If a person checked into vote, that mean -- that would prevent somebody else from coming in and voting, correct?

WOMAN: Right, yeah.

O'KEEFE: OK, so if that thing was checked off, the next person trying to come in and vote in that person's name, they couldn't, right?

WOMAN: They would not be able to.

[end audio clip]

O'KEEFE: Stay tuned to ProjectVeritas.com

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
Person
James O'Keefe
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