Leaked vote file from Donald Trump's 2016 campaign reveals 'deterrence' strategy

Clay Curtis
September 30, 2020

"One group titled "Deterrence" was beside the names of 3.5 million Black voters, the citizens" Trump did not want to vote on election day, per the report.

Channel 4 journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Tuesday said while it's "impossible to measure" the impact the alleged deterrence campaign had on the targeted voters, it "revealed the motivations behind what the Trump campaign was trying to do".

Their analysis showed black voters were significantly overrepresented in the "Deterrence" category, sometimes by as much as 300 percent: in Wisconsin, where they make up just 5.4 percent of the population, they made up 17 percent of "Deterrence"-classed voters".

Overall, Channel 4 claims "Black, Hispanic, Asian and "Other" groups made up 54% of the "Deterrence" category".

Channel 4's investigation appeared to frame Project Alamo as a campaign of racially-motivated voter suppression, noting that black turnout fell in 2016 for the first time and pointing to a Cambridge Analytica memo admitting to spending $55,000 in just the state of Georgia to bombard black voters with a video of Clinton saying black children were "super predators" who had to be "brought to heel".

The allegations were dismissed as "fake news" by Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director. They were then targeted with tailored ads on Facebook and other online platforms.

The meticulous digital campaign was reportedly crafted by a team from United Kingdom data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica alongside a team from the Republican National Committee.

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The report also said that negative publicity was used to discourage people from voting for Hillary Clinton, Trump's rival in the 2016 election, where the Democrat candidate described young Blacks as "superpredators" in videos viewed by millions of people on Facebook.

Jamal Watkins, vice president of civic engagement for the NAACP, decried the actions that were taken by the Trump campaign in 2016. "We also have rules prohibiting voter suppression and are running the largest voter information campaign in American history".

"The thing that's shocking-slash-troubling about this is that there's this category of suppression", he told Channel 4.

The information was used to target advertising on Facebook in 16 battleground states in 2016. It remains to be determined to what extent this widespread deterrence campaign was responsible for that decrease in voter participation. "We don't use the data to say who can we deter and keep at home", he said.

Trump ended up winning Wisconsin by just over 22,000 votes, or 0.76 percent of the total vote share. "It's a shift from the notion of democracy".

A Facebook spokesperson told Channel 4 that the company has addressed the issues that permitted the scheme.

'We have three major voter suppression operations under way, ' a senior official told Bloomberg in late October 2016 with the election still up for grabs. "President Trump has built a relationship of trust with African American voters because of the First Step Act's criminal justice reform, creating Opportunity Zones and his recently announced Platinum Plan to invest $500B in the Black community".

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