Donald Trump has announced a presidential commission to investigate his claims of widespread voter fraud, but he still hasn’t offered any evidence to back up his belief.
The president has been claiming massive voter fraud since last year, insisting he would have won the popular vote had it not been for fraud. Trump privately told lawmakers in January that between 3 million and 5 million people voted illegally. And shortly after, he told senators that the only reason he didn’t win in New Hampshire was because millions were bused in to vote in the state illegally.
Those kinds of claims from the president of the United States create the sense that the American election system is ripe for abuse, a perception that helps justify the need for laws that make it more difficult to vote. But as Trump continues with his baseless claims, the overwhelming information that has come out since the election indicates that voter fraud was not widespread.
New Hampshire election officials were quick to push back on Trump’s busing claims early this year. “We have no evidence or indication that there existed a scheme to bus in thousands of people to illegally vote in NH,” one told HuffPost. Even Corey Lewandowski, once Trump’s campaign manager and a close confidant, said he didn’t see any evidence of voter fraud in the state. At the time of the president’s claim, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said he had to contact the White House to figure out what Trump was talking about. Despite the lack of evidence of busing fraud, New Hampshire is considering tightening its proof of residency requirements when people register to vote.
Post-election audits in several states have shown that voter fraud does sometimes occur, but that it is extremely rare. In California, a state that Trump has singled out for voter fraud, Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) found just 89 cases of potential fraud that needed further investigation, 56 of which involved double voting and 16 concerned fraudulent voter registrations. Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by over 3 million votes in the 2016 election. In North Carolina, election officials found that irregular votes accounted for about 0.01 percent of the 4.8 million ballots cast in the election.
In the cases where people do cast an illegal ballot, they sometimes do so unknowingly or without bad intent. In Texas, one woman who was a legal permanent resident was sentenced to eight years in prison for voting. She said she did not know she was ineligible to vote. In North Carolina, another woman voted for Trump on behalf of her recently deceased mother. The local prosecutor declined to bring charges against the woman.
Trump has pointed to a 2012 Pew study noting the prevalence of outdated voter registrations. But it is not illegal to be registered in more than one state and the study does not say that fraud is occurring. The White House has also said that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who will be the vice chair of Trump’s commission, could produce evidence of widespread voter fraud. However, Kobach has failed to do so.
Trump has also expressed a belief that former Mississippi Department of Human Services head Gregg Phillips ― who has promoted conspiracy theories ― could prove there is voter fraud. But Phillips has not produced any evidence.