President Donald Trump, who has big and expensive plans to build a wall with Mexico and to make huge federal investments in the nation’s roads, bridges and airports, could save a little taxpayer money by forgoing a federal investigation into voter fraud.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that he would launch a federal investigation of voter fraud, “including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!”
Instead, he could review the reports already produced by and for people looking for voter fraud. Their conclusions: voter fraud is “extraordinarily rare.”
A commission empaneled by former Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers, a staunch supporter of voter ID, found no evidence of voter fraud and recommended against stricter voter ID laws in 2013.
“A voter ID law is unnecessary as there is little or no history in Maine of voter impersonation or identification fraud,” the panel wrote in its report. It said such a law would make it more difficult for homeless, African-American, elderly, poor and rural voters to access the polls.
Trump shouldn’t just rely on Maine’s experience. Jason Leavitt, a Loyola Law School professor, did a comprehensive analysis of voter fraud allegations between 2000 and 2014 and found 31 instances nationwide with credible evidence of potential fraud that may have been addressed through voter ID laws and another 13 cases of potential voter impersonation that such laws would not have stopped. That’s out of over 1 billion ballots cast.
“[B]y any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare,” Leavitt wrote in a 2007 report for the Brennan Center for Justice. Most instances of alleged voter fraud are instead clerical errors made by election officials.
Even Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee who was eager to launch numerous investigations of Hillary Clinton if she had been elected president, said he didn’t “see any evidence” of voter fraud.
People who purport to have evidence of election fraud, such as Trump and Gov. Paul LePage, confuse voter lists with actual voter fraud. Voter lists are imperfect. People die between the time lists are updated and Election Day. People move. Some will turn 18 and others will register to vote at the last minute.
State election officials try to minimize these problems. Maine, for example, recently joined a system, run by the state of Kansas, that cross checks voter lists among the 25 states that participate. The secretary of state’s office gets monthly reports from the Social Security Administration listing who has died in Maine, and these people are removed from the state’s voter list.
The Maine list is finalized 10 days before an election, so on Election Day, there will be dead people on voter rolls. Some people remain registered in two states. This in no way suggests that dead people voted or that people voted in two states.
Trump could ask his daughter Tiffany Trump, who was registered to vote in both New York and Pennsylvania, or his chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was registered in New York and Florida, or his treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, who was registered in New York and California, or his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who was registered in New York and New Jersey, if they were engaged in voter fraud in November.
Instead, claims of voter fraud are being used to build support for stricter voting requirements, especially voter identification laws. Federal courts have invalidated several recent state laws, often because they are discriminatory toward minorities.
“Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist,” U.S. Appeals Court Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote in a July decision rejecting North Carolina voting restrictions.
This is the true election fraud — attempts to suppress the voting rights of Americans because of their race, on false premises. We wish the president was outraged about that.