How much voter fraud exists in US elections?
It is more likely . . . that an American ‘will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.’
Perhaps reports of dead people voting inspired this quip from Gov. Earl Long: “When I die, I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that mail-in voting this year in the United States is fraught with fraud. In fact, during a trip to North Carolina he encouraged residents to vote twice (once by mail and once in person, which is a federal crime) to test the worthiness of the voting system in the state.
Recently, Mr. Trump has even suggested he won’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses in November because of mail-in ballots.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” the president said during a news conference Sept. 23. “You knew that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster. Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.”
“If it’s as good as they say it is then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote,” Trump said.
Although Mr. Trump has blasted mail-in voting as “RIPE for FRAUD” on Twitter, the president himself has used the method. When asked by a reporter about his vote by mail in the Florida presidential primary in August, Mr. Trump said he did that “because I’m allowed to.”
But how much voter fraud is happening now in this presidential election and how much has occurred in the past?
After unsubstantiated claims that “millions and millions” of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election and had cost him the popular vote, in 2017 Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate claims of voter fraud.
But the commission disbanded seven months after its first meeting without establishing a report on fraud. The White House blamed the cost of potential lawsuits and uncooperative states for the failure to produce evidence of widespread voter fraud, according to an investigation in USA TODAY published Oct. 20.
How much or little voter fraud is out there?
The Brennan Center’s seminal report on this issue, The Truth About Voter Fraud, found that most reports of voter fraud are traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data-matching practices.
The report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud and found incident rates between 0.0003% and 0.0025%. Given this tiny rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report said, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
A comprehensive 2014 study from 2000 to 2014 in The Washington Post found just 31 credible instances of impersonation fraud out of more than 1 billion ballots cast.
“The verdict is in from every corner that voter fraud is sufficiently rare that it simply could not and does not happen at the rate even approaching that which would be required to ‘rig’ an election,” the Brennan Center concluded.
Attempts to block the vote
- Last month, a Nevada judge dismissed a case filed by Trump’s re-election campaign that tried to bar the state from mailing ballots to all active voters.
- Two conservative operatives were charged earlier this month with using a hoax phone call to discourage Black voters in Illinois from mailing their ballots. In the call, a woman’s voice tells voters their personal information would be added to a public database and that they could be arrested for outstanding warrants or be forced to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials, according to a report Oct. 6 by Politico.
“Don’t be finessed into giving your private information to ‘the man,’” the woman said. “Stay safe and beware of vote by mail.”
- And, lastly, in the largest effort to suppress the vote in the United States, President Trump in August said he opposed including $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service in emergency funding included in a coronavirus-relief bill.
“They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Mr. Trump said during an interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
On Mr. Trump’s attempt to suppress voting by starving the beleaguered Postal Service during a pandemic, former President Barack Obama said: “What we’ve seen in a way that is unique to modern political history is a president who is explicit in trying to discourage people from voting. What we’ve never seen before is a president say, ‘I’m going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to encourage voting, and I will be explicit about the reason I’m doing it.’ That’s sort of unheard of.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson told BuzzFeed News in August that the Trump administration’s interference with the Postal Service was “the most blatant attempt to suppress voters in modern history at least since the voter suppression tactics of the 1960s.”
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