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The Myth of Voter Fraud—And the Truth About What's Threatening Our Elections

The next time you hear Trump and his enablers claim widespread voter fraud, know the truth. Their lies are intended to make it harder for millions of Americans to vote, while they ignore the real threats to our democracy.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaks to reporters before he attends the Republican Senate Caucus luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday March 26, 2019. (Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Donald Trump and his enablers have been making claims of widespread voter fraud, alleging millions of people are voting illegally in order to rig our elections.

Baloney. Let’s look at the facts and debunk their myths once and for all.

They claim millions of Americans are voting twice, using multiple registrations in different districts.

So how often does double voting really occur? An analysis of the 2012 presidential election found that out of 129 million votes cast, 0.02% – that’s two one hundredths of one percent – were double votes – which were likely the result of measurement error. This is a far cry from Donald Trump’s claims that millions of people were registered in two different states in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump and his enablers claim non-citizens are voting in droves. Trump himself said that thousands of undocumented immigrants voted in 2016.

Another lie. According to the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice, of 23.5 million votes cast in districts with high populations of non-citizens only 30 – I repeat, thirty – possible incidents of improper non-citizen voting were referred for further investigation.

They claim voter impersonation is rampant at the polls.

False. A 12-year study of election data found only 10 cases of voter impersonation out of 146 million registered voters. Ten.

So if voter fraud really isn’t a problem, why do Trump, Republicans in Congress, and their allies at Fox News keep perpetuating this myth? For one simple reason: To enact restrictive voting laws intended to keep voters from the polls.

Policies established in the name of election security – including voter ID laws, needless registration deadlines, limited access to polling places, and purges of the voter rolls – make it harder for Americans to vote. It is the same tactic that has been used throughout our history to disenfranchise low-income Americans and people of color.

Luckily, many of these laws have been struck down in the courts. In 2016, a district judge in Wisconsin found “utterly no evidence” of widespread voter fraud justifying its voter ID law. In Texas, another judge found their voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act, making it harder for African-Americans and Latinos to vote.

But many of these laws are still on the books because in 2013 the Supreme Court gutted crucial aspects of the Voting Rights Act.

Congress needs to update the Act to prevent states from suppressing votes.

Meanwhile, Trump and Republicans in Congress are turning a blind eye to the real threats facing our democracy: election fraud, and foreign interference.

In 2018, a Republican operative stole votes from Democrats in a North Carolina congressional race with a quote, “coordinated, unlawful, and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme.” After the ballots were counted, the Republican candidate appeared to have won by about 900 votes. But the fraud was so glaring that the state board of elections refused to certify the results and called for a special election.

The other real threat is foreign interference in our elections, as Russia did in 2016.

We now know for a fact that Trump is encouraging foreign leaders to interfere in our elections — asking the President of Ukraine to investigate his political opponents in exchange for military aid and publicly calling on Russia and China to also interfere.

In the Senate, Mitch McConnell continues to block common-sense legislation to protect our elections against future foreign interference, such as requiring all voting machines to have backup paper ballots and imposing automatic sanctions for nations that interfere in elections. To have safe and secure elections in 2020 and beyond, we need to pass this legislation.

The next time you hear Trump and his enablers claim widespread voter fraud, know the truth. Their lies are intended to make it harder for millions of Americans to vote, while they ignore the real threats to our democracy.

Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the the twentieth century. He has written fiften books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

 
 

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