John and Melanie Franklin had their suspicions about Joe Biden being the true winner of the 2020 presidential election. A new political documentary that opened last weekend, however, left no doubt in their minds.
“Yes, it was stolen,” Melanie Franklin told Atlanta Civic Circle after viewing “2000 Mules,” conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza’s cinematic take on what he believes really happened to put Biden in the White House.
“We knew most of it, but not the depth. I did not know it [ballot ‘harvesting’] was all over the U.S.,” said her husband, John Franklin, who found the film “shocking.”
The Franklins drove 30 miles from their home in Luthersville to see the movie at the Cinemark Tinseltown 17 in Fayetteville.
The only other person at the 6:15 Saturday night screening, Robert Clarke, went into “2000 Mules” as “an agnostic,” he said, borrowing the phrase from conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager who makes an appearance. But he came away believing the film’s claims of widespread illegal ballot collections could be plausible.
“They haven’t come to the absolute proof, but they have pointed in a direction that leads you to believe that their proposition is possible,” Clarke told Atlanta Civic Circle. The 72-year-old Brandon, Fla. resident was in town for a family funeral and decided to see the movie.
The Cinemark Tinseltown 17, located in conservative-leaning Fayette County, was the only southside theater to show the movie and one of only four in metro Atlanta. Nearly 53% of Fayette voters cast their ballot for Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
The movie relies on research from a conservative Texas nonprofit, True the Vote, to argue that thousands of people or “mules,” were paid by a national network of unnamed, Democratic-linked nonprofits to collect and deposit enough absentee ballots in dropboxes in key swing states, including Georgia, to put Biden in the White House.
The film doesn’t claim the ballots themselves were fraudulent–just the manner in which they were delivered, which is known as ballot collecting or harvesting. It’s legal in Georgia for someone to deposit a family member’s absentee ballot in a dropbox and for caregivers of disabled voters to do the same.
Reminiscent of a made-for-TV crime drama, “2000 Mules” uses a combination of cellphone tracking data, surveillance videos of people putting ballots in dropboxes, and roundtable discussions among election-deniers, including True the Vote principals, to make the case for a vast conspiracy of election fraud. (It’s an ironic claim from D’Souza, who was convicted of campaign finance fraud in 2014 for making illegal contributions to a U.S. Senate campaign in the names of others.)
Georgia is prominently featured in the film. True the Vote claims to have used cellphone location data to identify 2000 people or “mules” nationally, including 242 in Atlanta, who averaged 38 trips apiece to a ballot dropbox and deposited five ballots per trip, while also visiting unidentified, Democratic-linked nonprofits.
If a cellphone went near a dropbox over 10 times, plus a nonprofit over five times from Oct. 1 to Election Day on Nov. 3, True the Vote assumed its owner was a “mule.” Overall, it claims 30,000 Georgia absentee ballots were collected in this way.
News outlets have panned the movie, exposing multiple holes in its premise that a phalanx of people in a coordinated effort, akin to drug trafficking, upended the 2020 presidential election.
Last week, Georgia’s State Election Board dismissed several ballot-fraud claims, including one from True the Vote featured in the movie. It involved surveillance footage of a man in a white SUV depositing five absentee ballots into a Gwinnett County dropbox. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation found the man was legally delivering ballots cast by himself, his wife and children.
Despite the media criticism, Clarke and the Franklins found the movie compelling. Clarke said the alleged ballot-harvesting activities “are putting the Republic in jeopardy.”
“They’re not about protecting the individual and providing equal opportunity. They’re about destroying the Constitution,” he added.
Seeing the numerous videos of people depositing absentee ballots in drop boxes has further undermined the Franklins’ confidence in the election process. “It’s obvious something happened on election night in Georgia,” Melanie Franklin said. “Trump was ahead in Georgia when we went to bed–and not when we woke up.”
The Franklins, both registered Republicans, said they’ve stopped trusting the mainstream media’s election coverage. “We quit watching the news,” Melanie Franklin said. “The news media is not where we are going to get that information.” Instead, they mostly rely on the internet.
While the movie heightened all three moviegoers’ concerns about voting and elections, the Franklins plan to vote in Tuesday’s primary. “We like to vote on Election Day,” Melanie Franklin said.
“We like to go to the poll and see the ballot go in,” her husband explained. “The trust has definitely been broken. I hope it gets in the right hands.”
Even though they believe ballot fraud happened during the last election, the couple still feel it’s their duty to vote. “It’s the right thing to do,” Melanie Franklin said. “But do I feel confident in it? No.”
“I’m not going to quit because someone else is cheating,” John Franklin added.
Meredith Hobbs contributed to this report.