President Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, but he’s been determined to prove that massive voter fraud was responsible for him losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes.
And when Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity disbanded in January before completing its work, the White House wasn’t shy about stating what the group had supposedly found.
A White House statement explaining the commission’s premature dissolution cited “substantial evidence of voter fraud.” The commission’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, told Breitbart, “Some people on the left were getting uncomfortable about how much we were finding out.”
However, thousands of pages of commission documents released to Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and recently made public show nothing of the sort.
Trump appointed Dunlap to serve on the 12-member commission in May of last year. But Dunlap, a Democrat, soon found that he and some other commission members were excluded from key commission activities and denied access to key commission documents. His lawsuit to compel those documents’ release precipitated the commission’s dissolution.
“It quickly became apparent that a small, select number of commissioners were quite active, selecting witnesses for public meetings and formulating the Commission’s agenda,” Dunlap wrote in a letter to Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence, who co-chaired the commission, about his review of its documents. “The message was clear: dissenting or even questioning voices were unwelcome.”
Something else was clear: There was a predetermined mission to show voter fraud was widespread — and to recommend particular ways to address that supposed problem — even in the absence of actual evidence of voter fraud.
A working draft of the commission’s final report notably listed no evidence under “Evidence of Election Integrity and Voter Fraud Issues.” Equally as notable, “Voter ID” was listed under the report’s recommended “best practices,” although commission deliberations hadn’t yet resulted in such a recommendation. The documents contained plenty of conspiracy theorizing, but no proof of rampant voter fraud.
The lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud comports with the findings of several previous academic analyses on the issue.
For example, a comprehensive 2014 study by Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt turned up 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 was out of more than 1 billion ballots cast.
Reports that voter ID proponents have cited to substantiate their claims that voter fraud is widespread have used spurious analytical techniques or presented numbers that purport to be large without noting the full context.
A Heritage Foundation voter fraud database notes 983 criminal voter fraud convictions in state, local and federal elections. A Brennan Center review showed about half of those cases came from the past 10 years; the entirety of the cases date back to 1948, the year of Harry Truman’s re-election. As a portion the more than 3 billion votes cast in that period in federal elections, that’s less than 0.00003 percent of federal votes — and not even all of the convictions were for votes in federal elections. (For context, fraud-related losses accounted for 0.0007 percent of the amount transacted via credit and debit card in 2015, making it more than 23 times more common than supposed voter fraud.)
Meanwhile, the intelligence community agrees that a foreign government, Russia, is still trying to meddle in U.S. elections. But Trump, Kobach and other Republicans are content to focus on something that’s a problem, perhaps, 0.00003 percent of the time.
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