Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Voter Fraud Almost Nonexistent In The 2016 Election

(Cartoon image is by Phil Hands in the Wisconsin State Journal.)

Republicans have been whining for years now about voter fraud, and Donald Trump claims that millions of people voted fraudulently in the 2016 election (which is why he says he lost the popular vote by around 2.8 million votes).

Neither is true. The Republicans are using voter fraud claims to suppress the votes of groups prone to vote Democratic, and Trump is just trying to salve his own wounded ego. I offer you two excerpts below on voter fraud. The first is from an interview with Richard L. Hasen (professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California) at Bloomberg News by Francis Wilkinson, and the second is part of the New York Times article on voter fraud in the 2016 election by Michael Wines.

From Bloomberg News:

Wilkinson: The entire issue of voter fraud is based on assumptions, isn’t it? Many conservatives assume, without evidence, that fraud is widespread. Liberals counter with the assumption that since evidence doesn’t exist, fraud doesn’t either. How can you be sure that one assumption is superior to the other?
Hasen: I disagree with the premise of your question. Thoughtful people who have studied this issue (whether liberal or conservative) know that voter fraud is a real but very rare phenomenon. We do see occasional prosecutions for voter fraud, which usually involves the sale or theft of absentee ballots. People go to jail for this, as they do sometimes for voting in two jurisdictions (double voting).
However, cases of voter impersonation fraud, where one person goes to the polling place claiming to be someone else, are extremely rare. This is the kind of fraud that President-elect Trump talked about in the run-up to the election, speaking of people voting 5, 10 or 15 times without detection.
How do we know impersonation fraud doesn’t exist in large numbers? To begin with, it would be an exceedingly dumb way to try to steal an election.
Trump was ahead of Clinton by about 47,000 votes in Pennsylvania, according to a recent count. Let’s go back in time and say we wanted to flip this election. We would have had to find more than 4,700 people who each would have had to vote 10 times or more in Pennsylvania. We would have had to give them the names of more than 47,000 people who were listed on the voting rolls but were not going to show up to vote. And we would have had to pay those 4,700 people to vote even though we wouldn’t be able to verify that they did, thanks to the secret ballot.
Finally, all of them would have had to be silent about this. No word could get out. When you consider the level of difficulty it entails, you quickly realize that the entire idea is absurd.
We know other types of attempts at election fraud are not perfect crimes. People are caught each election somewhere in the country committing absentee fraud or trying to vote twice (although not 5, 10 or 15 times). Yet, at least since the 1980s, there are no examples of attempts or conspiracies to steal an election through impersonation fraud. We have only rare, isolated instances committed by individuals.
As to the idea, floated by President-elect Trump, that millions of non-citizens illegally voted, this, too, is an assertion based on no evidence. We know that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who supposedly suggested this notion to Trump, has been given power to investigate and prosecute non-citizen voting in his state, which he claims is an epidemic. He has found virtually nothing. So either the world’s greatest criminal masterminds are devoted to voter fraud (although the criminals still aren’t good enough to alter results even in close states such as Michigan or Wisconsin). Or we have a fictitious problem being raised for partisan reasons.
From the New York Times:

After all the allegations of rampant voter fraud and claims that millions had voted illegally, the people who supervised the general election last month in states around the nation have been adding up how many credible reports of fraud they actually received. The overwhelming consensus: next to none.

In an election in which more than 137.7 million Americans cast ballots, election and law enforcement officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia — Democratic-leaning, Republican-leaning and in-between — said that so far they knew of no credible allegations of fraudulent voting. Officials in another eight states said they knew of only one allegation.

A few states reported somewhat larger numbers of fraud claims that were under review. Tennessee counted 40 credible allegations out of some 4.3 million primary and general election votes. In Georgia, where more than 4.1 million ballots were cast, officials said they had opened 25 inquiries into “suspicious voting or election-related activity.”
But inquiries to all 50 states (every one but Kansas responded) found no states that reported indications of widespread fraud. And while additional allegations could surface as states wind up postelection reviews, their conclusions are unlikely to change significantly.

The findings unambiguously debunk repeated statements by President-elect Donald J. Trump that millions of illegal voters backed his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. They also refute warnings by Republican governors in Maine and North Carolina that election results could not be trusted.

And they underscore what researchers and scholars have said for years: Fraud by voters casting ballots illegally is a minuscule problem, but a potent political weapon.

“The old notion that somehow there are all these impostors out there, people not eligible to vote that are voting — it’s a lie,” said Thomas E. Mann, a resident scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. “But it’s what’s being used in the states now to impose increased qualifications and restrictions on voting.”

In a year that unfolded amid wild fraud claims, the reports from election officials were strikingly humdrum.

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