Voter Fraud: A Myth Wielded as a Weapon of Voter Suppression

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Donald J. Trump, November 27, 2017 Tweet

Stung by the ignominy of losing the popular election vote to his opponent in 2016, Mr. Trump seized on a convenient, and false, premise to explain why most of the country did not vote for him.

Not that it mattered. Electoral votes decide an election, but this was just a preview of the ego-driven megalomania for acceptance this President so craves.  His claim to winning the Electoral vote in a landslide was also exaggerated.

Electoral count
Trump 306
Clinton 232

Popular vote
Clinton: 65,844,954 (48.2%)
Trump: 62,979,879 (46.1%)

By contrast, President Barrack Obama received 365 electoral votes in his first election and 65,915,795 popular votes.

Again, none of this mattered.

What matters is Trump is sowing seeds of uncertainty over the upcoming election by propagating the myth of widespread voter fraud. He took this need to convince others of this fallacy to some extreme lengths. None of which have demonstrated evidence of voter fraud at any meaningful level.

On May 11, 2017, Mr. Trump formed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-executive-order-establishment-presidential-advisory-commission-election-integrity/)

One task of the commission was to investigate,

“those vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.”

During its tenure, holding just a few meetings and after a public plea for comments and information, the commission received seventy-seven comments. https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=GSA-GSA-2017-0002-0180

Seventy- seven comments from a country of 320 million. The commission did not live up to its lofty expectations.

On January 3, 2018, a mere eight months after creating this commission, Mr. Trump ended the commission with this statement.

“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry. Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”
Donald J. Trump January 3, 2018 https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-termination-presidential-advisory-commission-election-integrity/

Homeland Security assumed the mantel for investigating election fraud. They didn’t bear the burden for long. They offered the following.

“Asked whether the DHS has immediate plans to pursue voter fraud issues, agency spokesman Tyler Houlton said it ‘continues to work in support of state governments who are responsible for administering elections, with efforts focused on securing elections against those who seek to undermine the election system or its integrity.’”
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-dhs-idUSKBN1EU1YF

“Despite substantial evidence” Mr. Trump chose not to use the power of the Federal Government to pursue violations of the sanctity of our elections. Most criminals refuse to cooperate, that’s hardly grounds to discontinue a legitimate investigation. He put the blame on the states, but it offers little cover to what amounts to Presidential impotence or incompetence.

Or could it be something else?

Could it be the whole idea of widespread voter fraud is the fraud?

Since uncovering actual evidence of fraud—widespread or otherwise—would be an important story to break, many organizations and media outlets have done what Mr. Trump’s commission was unable or reluctant to do.

They uncovered the truth that voter fraud is not substantial nor widespread, but rare. The Brennan Center for Justice said in 2017 the risk of voting fraud is 0.00004% to 0.0009%.

“It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/truth-about-voter-fraud

Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, wrote in an op-ed. “While certain pockets of the country have seen their share of absentee-ballot scandals, problems are extremely rare in the five states that rely primarily on vote-by-mail, including the heavily Republican state of Utah.”

The Heritage Foundation, on July 28, 2018, issued a report with the headline, “Report Exposes Thousands of Illegal Votes in 2016 Election.” They argued the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity—still functioning at the time—had a difficult and important job ahead.  

They cited information from a report done by the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative non-profit organization.

“The Government Accountability Institute obtained voter registration and voter history data from only 21 states because while some states shared it freely, ‘others impose exorbitant costs or refuse to comply with voter information requests.’
These 21 states represent ‘about 17 percent of all possible state-to-state comparison combinations.’
The Institute compared the lists using an ‘extremely conservative matching approach that sought only to identify two votes cast in the same legal name.’ It found that 8,471 votes in 2016 were ‘highly likely’ duplicates.”
Extrapolating this to all 50 states would likely produce, with “high-confidence,” around 45,000 duplicate votes.”

(https://www.heritage.org/election-integrity/commentary/new-report-exposes-thousands-illegal-votes-2016-election)

The Heritage Foundation also released a report documenting 1,285 cases of voter fraud and 1,110 criminal convictions. https://www.heritage.org/voterfraud

These numbers hardly match the hyperbole.

Despite this claim of “rampant” fraud, the President dissolved the commission.

So, if the Presidential Commission failed to find evidence of voter fraud, and studies by a variety of organizations show fraud to be minimal, why promote a premise shown to be false?

The answer is as simple as most truths are; to suppress votes by blocking meaningful election reforms. By clouding the issue with lies and fallacies, the President sows doubt about election integrity. Yet, when confronted with evidence to the contrary, he and those who support him ignore it.

The United States trails most developed nations in voter turnout. Wouldn’t a comprehensive reform of the election process—extended voting opportunities, mandatory voter registration, improved security to ensure voting integrity, perhaps even a mandatory voting requirement—be something the President would want to foster?

(https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/21/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/ and https://www.idea.int/data-tools/data/voter-turnout)

Limiting the time to cast a vote for the election for the President of the United States—the most powerful political position in the world—to one Tuesday in November is ludicrous.

A country that put a man on the moon should be able to ensure every eligible America can vote without any undue hardship. All the means to insure those who vote are eligible should be on the table as part of the process, but the primary goal should be to increase voter turnout.

I know this may be heresy in some circles, but issuing a government identification form for free at the moment a voter registers seems obvious. Crafting appropriate and constitutionally valid voter identification laws should be a goal to foster greater confidence in voter integrity.

In these times of the pandemic, when the likelihood of the virus being a major consideration at election time is real and potentially deadly to the most vulnerable among us, maximizing the opportunity to vote should be an imperative. We need to find a way to increase mail-in ballot opportunities, lengthen in-person voting times, and remove obstacles to voters getting to the poles.

The legitimate fear of contracting the virus facing many Americans should never be an obstacle to voting. If we are truly a nation embracing the Democratic values of our Republic, securing everyone’s right to vote is paramount. Nothing should derail us in this cause.

Neither should a President, bent on promulgating falsehoods, use a myth to roadblock voting reform and suppress the vote of the most vulnerable among us. This stable genius needs a refresher course on truth and Presidential responsibilities.

In anticipation of the onslaught of anecdotal rebuttal links that will flood the reactions to this post, I offer this site as one example. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/01/07/five_states_face_federal_lawsuit_over_inaccurate_voter_registrations__142089.html

Here’s a quote from this piece.


Five States Face Federal Lawsuit Over Inaccurate Voter Registrations

.By Mark Hemingway January 07, 2020

In 378 U.S. counties, voter registration rates exceed 100% of the adult population, meaning there are more voter registrations on file than the total voting-age population, according to a new analysis by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Based on data the federal Electoral Assistance Commission released last year, the new analysis indicates that a minimum of 2.5 million voter registrations are wrongly listed as valid. It suggests widespread lack of compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which requires states to remove people who have died, moved, or are otherwise ineligible to vote from the rolls. While having excess registrations isn’t proof of voter fraud, voter integrity advocates note that it does create opportunities for deception, such as allowing people to vote twice in different precincts or submit invalid absentee ballots.  (emphasis mine)

Every election since the first has had some element of voter fraud. We should strive to eliminate as much of this as is humanly possible. But the overwhelming evidence indicates voter fraud has no significant impact on elections on the national level.

A more worthy goal would be to find ways to encourage every American who is eligible to vote. Under such circumstances we would have a truly representative government.

In those rare cases of actual voter fraud, maximizing the number of legitimate voters will further dilute the effect of fraudulent votes and remove the opportunity to “rig” an election.

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