There are two main theories about Donald Trump’s counter-factual Twitter dumps. One is they are the product of a genius marketing mind, diabolically skilled at the art of diversion and distraction, cleverly timed to gaslight Americans into ignoring the really horrible things he’s doing. The other possibility is that he is hopelessly paranoid and delusional and in serious need of mental health intervention.
After his latest foray into the la la land of voter fraud, I’m inclined to go with the second interpretation. There is simply no evidence of statistically significant voter fraud anywhere in America. Voter fraud is a deliberate Republican Big Lie strategy.
For years the GOP has been the main driver behind a nationwide conspiracy to impose restrictions and ID requirements that make it more difficult for black people and other minorities — who typically vote Democratic — to vote, despite overwhelming evidence that voter impersonation, the kind of fraud these laws are meant to prevent is virtually non-existent.
The most comprehensive study to date — The Truth About Voter Fraud, by Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School, found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country.
“To put this in perspective, the 31 incidents come in the context of general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014,” Levitt says. “In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period.
The Brennan Center’s seminal report on this issue, The Truth About Voter Fraud, found that most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually 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 0.00004 percent and 0.0009 percent.
“I don’t know of any study that has found any kind of significant voter fraud,” David Becker, director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research told CNN on January 25, after Trump raised the issue again at a Congressional dinner at the White House. “You’re more likely to get bitten by a shark who has won the Powerball lottery than, you know, find someone who committed voter fraud.”
Columbia University political scientist Lorraine C. Minnite, tracked incidence rates for voter fraud for two years in a recent study, and found that the rare fraud that was reported generally could be traced to “false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.”
Nor have taxpayer-funded attempts by Republican state Attorney Generals been any more successful in rooting out cases of voter fraud.
Some examples: On January 21, 2012 South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R) appeared on Fox News and breathlessly announced “We just recently learned that there are over 900 individuals who had died before the election (and had voted) and at least 600 of those individuals had died way outside the window that an absentee ballot could have been sent, so we know for a fact that there are deceased people whose identities are being used in elections in South Carolina.”
AG Wilson spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to have the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) conduct an extensive probe, which was completed May 11, 2012. The final report was “reviewed” for 13-months by Wilson’s office and then only released after a reporter from of the Columbia (S.C.) Free Times submitted an open records request under the Freedom of Information Act. He received the report the day before the 4th of July holiday — the slowest day of the news year.
Those claims of 953 votes by dead people actually involved 74 elections over a period of seven years. The agency’s investigation centered on 207 votes that allegedly were made by dead people in the Nov. 2, 2010 election — when a total of 1,365,480 votes were cast — after officials concluded that that batch constituted a “representative sampling” of the alleged voting irregularities. (Less than 2/10,000th of all of the votes cast in that election.)
SLED found no indication of voter fraud whatsoever. The ”zombie” votes were the result of clerical errors or mistaken identities.
Same conspiracy theory, same result in Iowa where Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who had made rooting out voter fraud the centerpiece of his winning campaign in 2010. In July 2012, he ordered the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to assign a full-time agent to investigate suspected voter fraud. After 18 months of scouring the state for voting fraudsters and spending $150,000 in tax money, absolutely no serious problems were uncovered. The two-year investigation yielded criminal charges in a total of 16 cases, according to an investigation by Des Moines Register reporter Jason Noble. Five were dismissed. Five other cases resulted in guilty pleas. A few involve Canadians who have possibly fled the country. There is no “voter fraud ring” or significant number of people wrongly registering to participate in in Iowa elections.
Following a state task force investigation into a number of Wisconsin counties’ 2008 presidential election ballots, 20 Wisconsinites were charged with committing election fraud. The DOJ and Milwaukee County prosecutors charged 11 felons for voting, six people for voter registration misconduct and two people for voting twice, according to a DOJ statement. One was a Milwaukee County man who acquired a ballot in his late-wife’s name so he could “fulfill her dying wish” to vote for Obama. Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, put it succinctly: “This is the worst piece of legislative crap I have ever seen in my thirty years of working with the Legislature.
Which brings us to Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach, who is considered by fellow Republican AGs as the master of the GOP voter suppression game. Kobach argued before state lawmakers that his office needed special power to prosecute voter fraud, because he knew of 100 such cases in his state. After being granted these powers, he has brought six such cases, of which only four have been successful. The secretary has also testified about his review of 84 million votes cast in 22 states to look for duplicate registrations. That effort yielded 14 instances of fraud referred for prosecution, which amounts to a 0.00000017 percent fraud rate.
Undaunted, Kobach doubled-down to the Washington Post : “The reason we have to do this is there is a significant problem in Kansas and in the rest of the country of aliens getting on our voting rolls. With so many close elections in Kansas, having a handful of votes that are cast by aliens can swing an election.”
That claim will be a lot more convincing if Kobach had exposed a single example of that happening in Kansas. Not surprisingly, Kobach endorsed Trump and advised him on immigration policy.
The simple truth is that every serious examination of voter fraud to date has been a bust producing only a statistically insignificant number of possible cases and virtually no prosecutions. Voter fraud by impersonation is a GOP talking point with no basis in reality.
If Donald Trump truly believes there was massive voter fraud in the 2016 election, he is clearly not mentally competent to hold higher office.
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