Trump Chases Non-Existent Voter Fraud With New Commission

Research shows minuscule levels of voter fraud in recent elections.
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President Donald Trump holds a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the East Room of the White House on April 12th, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump holds a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the East Room of the White House on April 12th, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that will establish a commission to review voter fraud and suppression in United States elections, the Hill reports.

Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will lead the commission, which will "study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections" and "fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting."

The move is unusual in that no evidence seems to exist to warrant a new commission. There's no research to show any serious trends of voter fraud in recent years, as Jared Keller explained for Pacific Standard in October:

The [Brennan Center for Justice’s] 2007 study on contemporary allegations of widespread voter fraud found a 0.0003 percent rate of double voting in Missouri in 2000 and 2002 (out of "hundreds" of alleged cases), a 0.0002 percent rate in New Jersey in 2004 (out of 4,397 alleged cases), and a 0.000009 percent rate in New York in 2002 and 2004 (out of "between 400 and 1000 alleged cases"). Reports of deceased voters in multiple states between 2002 and 2005 revealed similarly tiny results, according to the same study. A comprehensive 2014 analysis by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found just 31 "possible" instances of voter fraud amid more than one billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014; two studies released by Arizona State University from 2012 and 2016 reported similarly low rates.

Furthermore, the Electionland project, which brought together over 1,000 people from organizations such as ProPublica, WNYC, and the Google News Lab to monitor voting in the 2016 presidential election, found no evidence of widespread foul play. As ProPublica's Jessica Huseman and Scott Klein wrote: "There is no evidence that millions of people voted illegally. If there were, we'd have seen some sign of it."

As for voter suppression, the commission may want to turn its eye to the president's own party. The Brennan Center for Justice found that 14 states had implemented new voter restrictions for the 2016 election, including photo identification requirements and limits on mail-in ballot collection. Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, Senate, and governorship in 11 of those states leading up to the election.

While the new order doesn't tie this commission to the 2016 election, Trump has been vocal about his allegations of voter fraud since losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in the election, claiming on Twitter that he "won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." In January, he told congressional leaders in a private meeting at the White House that three to five million "illegals" voted for Clinton. A month later, in another private meeting with lawmakers, he claimed thousands of people traveled to New Hampshire to vote illegally, costing him a win in the state.

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