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Minneapolis Police Department Investigating Reports of Illegal Ballot Harvesting by Ilhan Omar Supporters

U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump’s attacks on the four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2019. (REUTERS/Erin Scott)

The Minneapolis Police Department announced Monday it was looking into a report by right-wing activist group Project Veritas that supporters of Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) had been illegally harvesting ballots this summer.

“The Minneapolis Police Department is aware of the allegations of vote harvesting. We are in the process of looking into the validity of those statements,” the department said in a statement. “No further information is available at this time on this.”

Project Veritas, an investigative reporting project led by conservative activist James O’Keefe, reported on Sunday that supporters of the Minnesota Democrat were illegally collecting blank ballots and posting boastful videos of their collections to social media, leading President Trump to call on the U.S. attorney in Minnesota to investigate.

“This is totally illegal. Hope that the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota has this, and other of her many misdeeds, under serious review??? If not, why not??? We will win Minnesota because of her, and law enforcement. Saved Minneapolis & Iron O Range!” Trump said in a tweet early Monday.

The president and other Republicans have been outspoken against ballot harvesting, a practice in which a third party collects ballots from voters’ homes to drop off at polling stations. The third-party harvesters are sometimes paid for their work and can be volunteers or campaign staff.

In a majority of states that allow ballot harvesting, laws limit the number of ballots that can be collected by a single person. In Minnesota, it is legal to assist up to three individuals in turning in their ballots.

For a period of time following a July 28 ruling by a district-court, the limit was temporarily invalidated, allowing an individual to collect an unlimited number of ballots, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The Minnesota Supreme Court then reinstated the limit in a September 4 ruling. 

A video shared by Project Veritas late Sunday shows Liban Mohamed, the brother of Minneapolis City Council member Jamal Osman, surrounded by what he claims are hundreds of ballots as he brags about his ballot harvesting work.

“Just today we got 300 for Jamal Osman,” Mohamed says in the video that was first posted on Snapchat on July 1, according to the report. “I have 300 ballots in my car right now. … Numbers don’t lie. You can see my car is full. All these here are absentee ballots. … Look, all these are for Jamal Osman.”

Minneapolis residents detailed large-scale ballot harvesting operations in apartment complexes across the city as part of a cash-for-ballots scheme to gather and fill out absentee ballots illegally from Somali immigrants, according to the report. Omar Jamal, a local community leader, and other unidentified sources alleged that progressive Squad member Ilhan Omar’s supporters were collecting the ballots.

“I think [Mohamed] was [working for] both Ilhan Omar and Jamal [Osman], but I think he was more with Ilhan Omar,” Jamal said.

“It’s an open secret,” he said. “She will do anything that she can do to get elected and she has hundreds of people on the streets doing that.”

Mohamed accused Project Veritas of editing the video to misrepresent his comments.

The group uses undercover reporters and its report relies on anonymous sources, making it difficult for outside groups to confirm the claims. Project Veritas has previously come under fire for the accuracy and ethics of its reporting, including during a botched attempt to show bias at the Washington Post. 

Omar responded to Trump’s calls for an investigation into the allegations on Monday by ridiculing the president over a New York Times report that claimed he had only paid $750 in income taxes in 2016.

Jeremy Slevin, Omar’s senior communications director, called the investigation an attempt to delegitimize the election, according to Newsweek.

“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. And amplifying a coordinated right-wing campaign to delegitimize a free and fair election this fall undermines our democracy,” he said.

While Minnesota is a battleground state, with several House seats and a Senate race that could flip, Omar’s district, one of the most liberal in the country, is unlikely to switch. Omar had a strong lead in her primary and is likely to win against her Republican opponent by a wide margin.

Editor’s Note: Liban Osman, the man pictured in the video bragging about collecting ballots, told a local Fox affiliate that he was offered a bribe to falsely claim that he was collecting ballots on behalf of Representative Ilhan Omar, when in fact he was working for his brother, city councilman Jamal Osman. Osman also claims that Project Veritas deceptively edited the video to make it seem as though he had paid voters for their ballots, when in fact he was only collecting ballots filled out by the elderly and infirm at their request.

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