A Pro-Trump Voting “Expert” Was Questioned About His Data. It Did Not Go Well for Him.
Matt Braynard, a onetime Trump campaign operative, has produced analyses of the 2020 vote in swing states that claim massive amounts of illegal votes were cast. He has testified alongside Rudy Giuliani, as the the personal lawyer for Donald Trump crusades to overturn the election. Braynard’s work has been cited in a number of GOP lawsuits seeking to nullify the election in key states. He has raised nearly $700,000 for his so-called “Voter Integrity Project,” and he has been paid handsomely to serve as an expert witness on voting data in several of the court cases. But on Thursday morning, he and his research were eviscerated by a Georgia state representative during an “elections investigative hearing” mounted by Republicans in the state House of Representatives.
Trump and his comrades have insisted that the 2020 tally, in which Trump decisively lost the presidency, was fraudulent, but he and his minions have not provided any credible evidence of fraud or cheating. Perhaps the closest thing to evidence they have to offer is the data analysis that Braynard has compiled. Braynard led the data operation for Trump’s 2016 campaign (until he was fired in some sort of personnel dispute), and he remains a huge Trump fan. (A proud conservative nationalist, Braynard once created a literary magazine named after an ultra-nationalist teenager in Japan who in 1960 brutally assassinated a socialist politician.) After the 2020 election, Braynard began collecting and studying voting data—examining various databases and conducting phone surveys—and he has since argued that the results were tarnished by a large influx of illegal votes. He has been collaborating with a conservative legal organization called the Thomas More Society that has ties to Trump’s legal team.
This work has brought in a flood of dollars. Braynard says that the money donated to his project will only be used to cover its costs; he won’t take a cut. But he has been enlisted as an expert witness in at least three cases challenging the election results in which he has been paid a fee. According to court records, he earned $40,000 in a Georgia case, $40,000 in an Arizona case, and $150,000 in a Wisconsin case. (It is unclear whether any of these fees overlap.) In the Wisconsin matter, he declared, “It is my opinion that due to the lax controls on absentee voting in the November 3, 2020 election that the current unofficial results of that election include tens of thousands of individuals who were not eligible to vote or failed to record ballots from individuals that were. As a result, it is my opinion that the unofficial results should not be certified.” He essentially said the same in the other two cases.
Braynard’s work has been challenged in court. In a filing in a Georgia case—which was eventually dismissed—Democratic lawyers contended that Braynard “does not have the appropriate qualifications to opine on these topics, he does not follow standard methodology in the relevant scientific field, and the survey underlying several of his opinions is fatally flawed.” They cited a report by Stephen Ansolabehere, a Harvard professor and well-known expert in voting and statistics, which slammed Braynard’s findings. Ansolabehere maintained there was “no scientific basis” for Braynard’s claims and said that Braynard presented “no standard errors or confidence intervals, which are necessary to gauge how informative estimates are.” He insisted that Braynard was making inaccurate extrapolations of limited data and that the phone surveys Braynard used had “design flaws.” Other statisticians have harshly criticized Braynard’s methods.
On Tuesday, Braynard sent a letter to the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state of Georgia, claiming he had uncovered 21,000 illegal ballots in the Peach State. He included a USB with what he described as “evidence.” But two days later, when he testified at a Zoom hearing held by Republican Georgia state legislators—right before Giuliani would testify to the group—his conclusions and work were seriously undermined. He was even made to look foolish.
Braynard told the legislators that 1,043 early and absentee ballots cast in Georgia in the 2020 election came from people who had registered using a postal box “disguised as a residential address”—which is against the rules. He also stated that by checking a national registry of address changes and other databases he had determined that 20,312 voters were people who had moved out of Georgia or who had registered to vote in another state. And he added that at least 395 votes had been cast by people who had voted in Georgia and another state. He asserted that “the number of ballots that are strongly indicated as illegally cast [in Georgia] surpass the margin of victory in the presidential election.” (Of course, there was no telling who these supposedly illegal votes were cast for.) In defending his methodology, he cited scholarly articles written by Ansolabehere, the Harvard professor who had condemned Braynard’s work. He also noted that he had turned over his information to the FBI.
At first, the hearing went smoothly for Braynard, who has the professional presentation of a data specialist. But then came state Rep. Bee Nguyen, a Democrat from Atlanta. It turns out she had been doing her own research. Citing an exhibit filed by Braynard that listed people who had voted but who supposedly had registered in Georgia and another state, she pointed out that several names were duplicated on the list. Then she said that she had looked up the first 10 names on the list and had found eight of these people listed in Georgia property records as residents. She reached one of them on the phone, she said, and he confirmed that he lived and voted only in Georgia. Nguyen said she verified this person’s voting record.
Taking another name from this list—a woman allegedly registered in Georgia and Arizona—she confirmed this person’s residence and voting record in Georgia, and she found another voter with the exact same name listed in the Arizona voter rolls, born in the same year but with a different birth date. She also identified another person on the list in a similar situation: same name, different birth dates.
In rapid-fire fashion, Nguyen continued on. She turned to the Braynard list of voters who he said had registered with postal boxes “disguised” as residences. She recognized one of the addresses as being around the corner from her home—a condo complex with a FedEx center on the first floor. (Some apartment buildings use a postal box-like system for their addresses.) A friend in the building sent her a list of residents of the complex. They were all on Braynard’s list, she said. And the same was true, she had discovered, for another condo complex with a FedEx center. On her own, she said, she had discovered that 128 names on this list—more than 10 percent of Braynard’s total number—were errors.
And Nguyen wasn’t done. One of the names on the list of people who had allegedly voted in two states—a crime—belonged to a neighbor of another state representative, Teri Anulewicz, a Cobb County Democrat. This person had supposedly voted in Georgia and Maryland. Anulewicz contacted her neighbor, and, according to Nguyen, he told Anulewicz that he had never voted in Maryland but has a father with the exact same name. Nguyen looked at another name on this particular list—a person who had allegedly voted in Georgia and Virginia—and she found two people in those states with that name but with different birth dates. And one of her own constituents, she said, appeared on this list. Nguyen drove to her house, she recounted, and the woman told her that she and her husband had lived in Georgia their entire lives and had never been to the other state.
Nguyen concluded this dissection of Braynard with a serious charge: “Many of the names listed on your exhibit are erroneous. You have alleged that these voters have committed a felony.” She criticized Braynard for having made no effort to contact some of them and verify the information. And referring to one couple she spoke to, Nguyen added, “They have no idea they are being accused of committing a crime in a public filing.”
Braynard did not have a lot to say about the problematic examples Nguyen had cited when she was done. “Thank you for helping to raise issues to help better validate the data,” he remarked. And he told Nguyen that he would “be more than happy” to “get back to you.” Then the hearing moved on to an appearance by Giuliani, who insisted there was no question that the election in Georgia had been rigged against Trump. (He claimed there were a thousand people “on tape admitting fraud” and accused the state’s Republican governor and Republican secretary of state of perpetuating a “cover-up.”)
A week earlier, in a Wisconsin case that was partly based on Braynard’s research, the state supreme court had shot down that challenge to the election, with one conservative justice writing that the petitioners had relied “almost entirely on the unsworn expert report of a former campaign employee that offers statistical estimates based on call center samples and social media research.” That is, his work didn’t fly legally. And when cross-examined by Nguyen, who had engaged in her own basic fact-checking, Braynard’s research and his standing as an expert appeared to crumble.
After the hearing, I contacted Braynard to get his take on what had happened. He didn’t respond.