Analysis: Voter Fraud is Real, But Trump's Inflated 'Illegal Voter' Claim is a Baseless Distraction

Posted: Jan 26, 2017 11:06 AM

Whenever I pour cold water on President Trump's repeated claims about massive-scale voter fraud, I'm accused of pretending that the problem of fraud doesn't exist at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, I've written about it HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and also in my book. Illegal voting is not some fantastical, dark, right-wing pretext to impose "voter suppression" on racial minorities, the vast majority of whom support voter integrity laws -- which liberals indignantly oppose, supposedly on their behalf. Fraud should be neither downplayed nor tolerated, and sensible safeguards against it are absolutely appropriate. Having said all that, Trump's claim that 3-5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election is entirely unsupported by any facts whatsoever. Consider a few points:

(1) Trump's own lawyers, while seeking to beat back the Left's ridiculous recount push -- and which Trump supporters rightly mocked -- asserted that the election was free of significant irregularities: "All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake," they wrote in a legal brief.  They were correct.

(2) A bipartisan group of state-level officials have attested that there was negligible fraud in the election. Various studies have also found vanishingly rare cases of fraud, though it's important to note that these studies have missed or overlooked some of the examples linked above -- plus, the issue people are worried about is undetected voter fraud.

(3)  Various prominent Republicans, including this stalwart Trump ally and defender, aren't even trying to pretend that Trump is onto anything legitimate here. 

(4) The lone piece of "proof" I've seen from Trump and friends is a methodologically questionable study that indicated that 14 percent of non-citizens in a 2008 nationwide survey self-reported that they were registered to vote.  For the sake of argument, let's pretend that this number is totally accurate, and not even the least bit exaggerated.  Let's further stipulate that every single one of these people was still registered to vote in 2016, actually voted, and that they all voted for Hillary Clinton.  (Yes, that's exceedingly and increasingly far-fetched, but bear with me).  By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, and based on the official figure of 13 million illegal immigrants in the country, Clinton would have gained 1.8 million votes under this highly implausible scenario. That's still seven figures away from Trump's ludicrous range.

According to reports and White House leaks, Trump is obsessed with the notion that people doubt his legitimacy (one might have thought that being sworn in, and hearing 'Hail to the Chief,' may have at last soothed these gnawing insecurities, but alas), so he's endlessly casting about for responses to perceived marks against him.  Hence the crowd size debacle.  And hence this 'millions of illegal votes' absurdity.  On 'Special Report,' I once again made the point that Trump's best rejoinder to the Left's "but popular vote!" refrain is to stick with his original argument: I didn't win the popular vote because I didn't try to win it.  The goal was to win the electoral college, which I did.  If the presidency were determined by the former metric, I'd have won that, too.  Charles Krauthammer added that liberals' squawking about an ultimately irrelevant statistic would be like a World Series loser fixating on the fact that they scored more runs overall.  It doesn't matter:

But rather than shrug off the critics and whiners, Trump can't stop taking their bait, wasting valuable time and energy fighting them with nonsense.  I suggested that if the president truly believes that his attorneys were wrong and that rampant cheating did occur (as he apparently told Congressional leaders at their first sit-down), he should order a full-scale investigation into what would be, by definition, an existential threat to our electoral system.  He has now done exactly that, evidently asking that it focus on large states won by Mrs. Clinton.  If a review is to take place, which strikes me as a colossal waste of taxpayer money, it should be comprehensive; not cherry-picked.  And what happens if and when the study -- assuming it's free from political pressures -- contradicts Trump's belief?  Will he accept reality as it exists, or continue spouting the conspiracy?  Or will the media's attention span have moved on to the point that he no longer really cares?

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