Cellphone Geolocation Data: 7 Percent of Mail-In Ballots Were Trafficked in 2020 Election

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  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

Cellphone geolocation data shows that thousands of votes were allegedly trafficked in Wisconsin, according to True The Vote (TTV). The "pinpoint" cellphone geolocation data show "trackable, provable data trails," showing incontrovertible evidence of "repeated abuses of process that diminish the sanctity of all votes," says Catherine Engelbrecht founder of the organization. In a March 24 presentation to the Wisconsin State Legislature, Gregg Phillips, who oversees the technical aspects of the TTV investigations, estimated that "seven percent or 137,551 votes" of the 1.9 million mail-in ballots in Wisconsin "were cast as a result of trafficking."

"This is a number," he said, "That has held in every single community across the country that we've looked in." The March 24th report is but one of several from Wisconsin and most of the state's data is still being analyzed and will be reported at a later date. Thursday's report summarized the completed results from their research on Milwaukee County only. 

Why Should We Care/7 Percent of Mail-In Ballots Cast as Result of Trafficking.

TTV used highly precise geolocation technology to track paid "mules" who participated in an alleged ballot trafficking operation in Wisconsin and other major cities. Mules are "intermediaries other than the absentee voters themselves" who were paid to deliver multiple ballots to drop boxes during early voting in the 2020 General Election. Phillips, head of the OpSec group, says that "DNA is the only thing harder to anonymize than precise Geolocation data. Put simply; it is immutable."

Drop Boxes and Mail-In Ballots

According to its own report, "TTV is currently investigating ballot harvesting patterns in three of the five Wisconsin cities that received CTCL funding. Specifically, TTV is conducting research and analysis to determine whether, during the two-week period prior to the 2020 election (10/20/20 – 11/3/20), there was systematic delivery of absentee ballots to drop boxes by intermediaries other than by the absentee voters themselves." The data in the report presented to the State Legislature was TTV's "initial analysis of dropbox traffic data in Milwaukee County." Notably, Wisconsin election statutes do not authorize the use of drop boxes in elections, according to the TTV report.

Mail-in ballots, which are "notoriously insecure" as well as the "newly introduced and highly unregulated absentee ballot drop boxes," compromised the integrity of the 2020 election, said Engelbrecht. Additionally, Engelbrecht explained that the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) failed to follow its commitment to securing drop boxes with video surveillance cameras per guidelines prescribed by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

Through open records requests from every municipality, TTV confirmed that the small village of Brown Deer was the only municipality that made video surveillance available from one of its "two drop boxes with a camera that was reasonably close" to the drop boxes. Therefore, TTV decided to make use of "commercially available cell phone data to measure whether or not we could prove that absentee ballot drop boxes were being abused in Wisconsin." Unlike Georgia, TTV reported, Wisconsin law does not require 24/7 video surveillance of drop boxes.

The over $350 million in grants from Zuckerberg's Center for Technology and Civic Life ("CTCL") funded dropboxes for absentee ballots in 2020. In Wisconsin, CTCL distributed over $10.3 million in grants. According to TTV, "[a]bout 86% of the funding went to five cities, Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha, and Racine, which they used to provide drop boxes for receiving absentee ballots and other voter assistance." Prompted by whistleblowers who came forward to report their experiences, TTV decided to purchase "publicly available dropbox surveillance video and commercially available geospatial (mobile device) data generated at CTCL grant-funded drop box locations."

The hearing in front of the Wisconsin legislature revealed disheartening, incontrovertible evidence of ballot trafficking that showed "repeated abuses of process that diminish the sanctity of all votes," Engelbrecht lamented. In her opening statement, she told legislators that it is hard to "come away with any conclusion other than that it was planned."

"For the past 16 months, we have heard the repeated refrain from those responsible for overseeing elections that this was the most secure election ever and to think otherwise is a lie. But America knew differently. And they were right. It was not the most secure election ever. It was quite possibly one of the least. We've watched the mass mail out of paper ballots to highly inaccurate voter records. The harried installation of by mail, absentee ballot drop boxes, privately funded by billionaire tech magnates. And the hundreds of legislative changes lawsuits, consent decrees, all that fundamentally altered election processes. And all of this came together in 2020 under the fog of COVID. It's hard not to look at the confluence of events and come away with any conclusion other than that it was planned."

True The Vote's Initial Data: Milwaukee County Completed

True the Vote completed the Milwaukee county research after having "purchased 25 terabytes of cell phone data" from "standard commercial providers" for their investigation. The data was collected with signals from cellphone apps which enabled the team to effectively trace the mules' activity in the ballot trafficking operation.

"TTV purchased 25 terabytes of cell phone signal data emitted by devices in the Milwaukee County area during the two-week period prior to the 2020 election, October 20 - November 3. The data was purchased from standard commercial providers and includes signals from over 27,000 cell phone apps, which data aggregators purchase and resell to public and private buyers for official and commercial uses. Consistent with TTV policy and methods, the data was never held in any form other than "anonymized." While the data provides exact locations of specific devices at specific times, it does not disclose the identities or other private information about the individuals registered as owners of those devices."

In summary, Phillips' team targeted a timeline that extended slightly out of the early voting period to develop a more authentic pattern of behavior. The study period was then narrowed to the days between October 20 and November 3. His team found that the studied devices visited an average of "5 NGOs and 26 drop boxes in the study period. 138 devices in total were accurately identified and a total of 3568 unique dropbox visits" were identified.

Gregg Phillips Data/TTV

Methodology: Algorithms And Solid Hypothesis Testing

In total, "TTV bought 10 trillion cell signals to conduct their investigation," said Phillips. Compiling what is called "a pattern of life," Phillips stated that he can track a unique device ID from one particular phone, adding the "element of time" to track where a phone has been and where they go—"what they do," "where they work," and "where they sleep." He said he and his team of 12 have the ability to track the phone, "depending on the app, down as close to a few inches." He added that his team has "primarily focused on Arizona, Georgia, some in Texas, Wisconsin, Milwaukee in particular, Detroit in Michigan, and Philadelphia."

"There have been several arrests related to this" activity, with more coming, said Phillips. He also noted that a "nationwide and even international grift that has developed around all of this. Voting is only a part of it."

Using the geofencing technology, we can see that while ballots were collected differently in different communities, "it is basically all the same," he continued. He also explained that his team worked hard to constantly "refine their hypotheses." His team went to great lengths to ensure "that false negatives and false positives were avoided" as much as they could.

"If we just said OK, everybody who walks near a dropbox in Milwaukee is the target, it's ridiculous, right? I mean, it's it doesn't even make sense. It wouldn't hold water. I mean, it could be, you know, my grandmother out walking her dog. It could be anything and it doesn't make sense." Phillips said he used algorithms to clean up those kinds of errors.

Phillips also spoke about his team's use of math and algorithms to evaluate the involvement of NGOs in the scheme.

"So one of the things that we found particularly helpful from an algorithmic and mathematical perspective is to look at how many times did they go to both an NGO, one of the nonprofits that were on our target list and how many times did they go near a dropbox? And in doing that, then we think we mentioned we looked at 400,000 devices or so, now we can begin to skinny this down."

In that way, he continued, "we found 5 NGOs and 26 drop boxes as our threshold in Milwaukee. One might reasonably consider that there's something going on there."

Phillips then explained how he took some of the devices and mapped out samples of travel on a particular day to build a more precise picture of the behavior they were seeing. For example, one of the graphics in the report demonstrates one such sample. The yellow tags are drop box locations and the blue tag is an NGO location.

Graphic One Shows Device Number 2 going to Atkinson Library 7 times, Capitol Library 2 times, Martin Luther King Library 1 time, and the NGO (WI Organization 02) 1 time for a total of 11 visits.

Cellphones to drop boxes and NGOs/TTV

During the presentation, he mapped out a sample of 4 devices that traveled on Oct. 20, 2020. Roughly 20 dropbox visits by four devices on one day, for example, according to Phillips. The graphic below "represents just four of our 130 or so different devices on one particular day."

Sampling/TTV/Four Devices on One Day Sample

Evidence 2020 Rioters Participated in Trafficking

In looking at patterns, Phillips also found evidence of crossover between those who rioted in 2020 and those who participated in the trafficking. Through an entity "funded by federal law enforcement agencies all over the world. It is called the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data and Target Devices (ACLED). It is a database of all of the device IDs that show up at the violent protests around the world," said Phillips.

ACLED/Data on Violent riots in 2020

Working with that data, his team "identified 14 targeted devices that participated in one or more of the violent riots in Wisconsin during 2020. So—of our device IDs, of all the ones we identified—about 10% or so participated in some violent riots in the state."


Phillips emphasized that it is wrong to say this was the "most secure election in history." The team suggested several areas of focus to prevent election fraud in the future.

  • Make your voter rolls precise data and keep them clean
  • Vote "harvesting" should be illegal
  • Stop mass mailing ballots
  • Stop abuses like "Vote in the Park"
  • Stop private funding of elections
  • Stop drop boxes
  • Make the penalty for cheating something people fear.

Phillips said that none of the suggestions stand alone. Legislators must commit to all. However, he emphasized clean voter rolls as paramount to clean elections and one that has historically been problematic in every state in the nation.

TTV Suggestions

"We encourage you to commit to clean voter rolls and real-time tech," said Engelbrecht. Phillips mentioned that when voters cannot be accurately identified by a "full birthdate," as with the rolls in Wisconsin, it is a prescription for failure. Accurate voter records are foundational to fair elections. Phillips continued:

"The reality is, is that Wisconsin has created a means through which the lack of transparency in the rolls causes the problem. You have to be able to verify identity and you have to start, in part, with the date of birth. The challenge is that the system compels the voters [here] to rely on someone other than themselves. If, for example, all you do is give them Gregg Phillips, 1960, you set up failure in the process. So, if you can't verify identity first, anything else that you do related to the ballots, related to the applications for the ballots, related to mailings, related to anything else—is a FAIL." 

In a notable exchange between Rep. Donna Rozar and Engelbrecht, Rozar, who seemed somewhat frustrated, sought to defend her colleagues on the State Legislature, waving a stack of papers with laws that the legislature had passed. She told Engelbrecht the laws were later vetoed by the Governor, not uncommon in the realm of election integrity legislation.

"We are the legislative branch of the government. We are not the judicial. We are not the executive. Many of the election reform bills that we passed were vetoed by the Governor, and it's not that we've ignored these weaknesses that have been identified. So I wanted to make that you were aware that we have addressed the weaknesses that you have identified."

True the Vote conducts complex "non-partisan research and analysis of election administration and process integrity." The Texas-based organization also utilizes "data to detect patterns in complex commercial and criminal investigations across diverse market segments, including government agencies and healthcare."

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