Shortly after defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump claimed he would have won the popular vote if not for “millions of people who voted illegally. He then revived those comments after the inauguration in a Twitter post that set off a political firestorm.
Trump has called for “a major investigation” of voter fraud, although the issue has been widely examined by legislative bodies and academic scholars. The conclusions have almost always been the same: fraud happens, but it is limited and isolated. It has not taken place on the massive scale that Trump implies.
Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes, and no one can find 300 cases of vote fraud in the election, let alone 3 million.
President Trump stands alone in his claim of massive electoral fraud, even among his Republican colleagues. Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters he found no evidence of vote fraud and South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham told Trump to “knock this off.” Graham argued that Trump is undermining his own political legitimacy and credibility in pursuing his bogus claims.
Even President Trump’s own attorneys disagreed with him in defending him against the voter recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania brought by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Trump’s lawyers told the court that “all available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”
State supervisors of elections, most of whom are Republicans, have uniformly claimed there was little evidence of fraud, especially the massive amounts claimed by Trump.
Ohio Supervisor of Elections Jon Husted commented that there was “no evidence of widespread fraud.” The National Association of Secretaries of States wrote that “we are not aware of any evidence that supports the vote fraud claims by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the administration’s concerns.”
Critics of the president find it surprising that Trump sees fraud where his own party members see none, but that he fails to see the Soviet influence in the presidential election although the American intelligence community uniformly concluded that the Soviets were directly involved in attempting to influence the election.
What is Trump’s evidence that voter fraud exists? According to Sean Spicer, President Trump’s press secretary, Trump believes that ‘vote fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence people have brought to him.”
I would love to see that evidence. So would every political reporter and supervisor of election in America.
Spicer cites a Pew report from 2008 that he claims found that 14 percent of voters were non-citizens. Unfortunately, the authors of that study say it does not say that.
Spicer also cites a 2012 Pew study that found there were almost 2 million dead voters and 2.7 million voters were registered to vote in two cities or states. No one denies that there are dead voters on the registration rolls or that many people are registered to vote in two places. This is not illegal unless the dead attempt to vote along with those registered in multiple jurisdictions.
It was somewhat embarrassing when it was found that Trump’s daughter Tiffany was registered to vote in both New York and Pennsylvania. Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign and political adviser, was registered in Sarasota and New York and his nominee for Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, was registered in California and New York.
Election officials are constantly “cleansing” the rolls of dead voters and those who have moved. Unless an individual notifies election officials of their move, it will take some time to remove them from the rolls.
So, did almost 3 million individuals illegally vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 allowing her to win the popular vote. No, is the simple answer. If you can get 3 million people to cast illegal votes, you ought to make sure they vote in the closely competitive states where the electoral vote was needed.
According to the highly-respected Brennan Center, vote fraud in elections generally runs between .00004% and .0009%. Trump is wasting his time, as well as the nation’s time, in focusing on an issue he has no credibility. He is also impugning the integrity of the electoral process which may have devastating long-term consequences.
President Trump, don’t waste your time and political resources in trying to prove the unprovable. You won. Move on to more important things.
Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at Unioversity of South Florida St. Petersburg.