Updated: September 29, 2020 08:11 AM
Created: September 28, 2020 04:37 PM
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office has responded to allegations of potential ballot harvesting in the county, stating it has not received information nor does it have any cases "involving so-called ballot harvesting in any elections held in Hennepin County this year."
The response comes after a video released by conservative activist group Project Veritas claims to show ballot harvesting in Minneapolis among "political allies and associates of Rep. Ilhan Omar." The video circulated widely on social media after its release, leading some state lawmakers to call for an investigation.
The report from the Project Veritas group makes a series of allegations about a scheme to get elderly Somali voters to turn over absentee ballots to people "harvesting" votes for Minneapolis City Councilman Jamal Osman, who was elected during a special election on Aug. 11. A video with the group's report shows what the organization claims are absentee ballots piled up in a car. Video also shows a man going door-to-door collecting ballots in the Cedar-Riverside Apartments, home to a large Somali population.
A Republican state representative, Steve Drazkowski, says he contacted Project Veritas after the video was brought to his attention this summer.
"They were very interested in being here right away," Drazkowski said. "They showed up in Minnesota and have been in Minnesota here, since."
Drazkowski claims the group plans to release additional segments that will show a "real complex widespread ballot-buying scheme."
Omar Jamal appears in the video, described as an "insider to come forward and expose a voter fraud scheme in Minnesota," saying "I only will be part of this investigation because of ongoing election fraud that we feel that we should bring to the attention of everyone."
Jamal did not respond to numerous messages left by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. The FBI would not confirm or deny that the claims were brought to its attention.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher confirms Jamal is a civilian employee of his office but says "Mr. Jamal was not acting as an employee of the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office. Any direct implication would be a violation of department policies."
Project Veritas has made headlines in the past for its track record of targeting Democratic groups and major media outlets, often by hiding their identities and using hidden cameras. James O'Keefe, the organization's founder, was convicted in 2010 as part of a scheme to illegally make recordings at the office of then-Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat.
Monday afternoon, Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and State Jim Nash, both Republicans, issued a statement saying they have requested the Secretary of State's Office investigate the claim.
A spokesperson from the Secretary of State's Office says the office has no investigating power and that any investigation needs to be handled by the county attorney's office where the fraud is alleged.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said if the conservative group has actual evidence of election law violations, the evidence needs to be turned over to the Minneapolis Police Department.
An official with the Minneapolis Police Department says the department is aware of the claims made by Project Veritas and is investigating the validity of the allegations.
Omar's campaign released a statement after the report was released.
"The amount of truth to this story is equal to the amount Donald Trump paid in taxes in ten out of the last fifteen years: zero," said Jeremy Slevin, a senior advisor to the campaign. "And amplifying a coordinated right-wing campaign to delegitimize a free and fair election this fall undermines our democracy."
The Minnesota DFL also sent out a statement, refuting the claims made by the Project Veritas video, saying "Project Veritas is a discredited, far-right propaganda outfit known for lying, entrapment, and breaking the law."
Attorney General Keith Ellison also issued a statement calling the Project Veritas report into question.
"Anyone with legitimate information about any possible violation of Minnesota elections law should present it to the proper authority, just as I would do," Ellison said. "Project Veritas, a highly partisan outfit with a history of running cons, founded by someone who pled guilty to a serious federal crime, is not a trustworthy source. The timing of their allegations — within weeks of the election, and on the same day the New York Times published a carefully sourced story on the President's failure to pay taxes — should cause all Minnesotans to be highly skeptical."
After the report, Jennifer Carnahan, the chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, called for an investigation into Omar's midterm victory.
"The voter turnout in Hennepin County in 2018 was shockingly high," Carnahan said in a statement. "We may now have the explanation. If what appears in the Project Veritas video is accurate the results of every election that touched Hennepin County in 2018 are in question. An investigation needs to be by somebody from outside the MN DFL power structure and outside of Minnesota, we call on US Attorney General William Barr to launch a full investigation."
Lacy Johnson, Omar's Republican opponent in the upcoming election, called on her to resign over the allegations Monday afternoon on Twitter.
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