Presidential Campaign

The truth about voter fraud

Getty Images

Voter fraud is a myth, despite President Trump’s fresh claims that there were 3 million unlawfully cast ballots in the 2016 election. Academics, news outlets, government agencies, and the courts all agree that voter fraud simply does not exist.

What are the facts?

A comprehensive study from 2000 through 2014, published in The Washington Post, found 31 credible instances of intentional voter fraud out of more than 1 billion ballots cast. Even this low number might be inflated given that they focused on credible claims, and not prosecutions and convictions.

A 2007 Brennan Center report on voter fraud found that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than they are to commit voter fraud. After reviewing dozens of “voter fraud” cases across three states, the report found an incident rates between 0.00004 percent and 0.0009 percent.

{mosads}A specially formed Department of Justice task force, convened by then-President George W. Bush and tasked specifically with finding cases of individual voter fraud in the 2002 and 2004 general elections, was unable to meet to find any instances of voter fraud. Rather than accept its own findings, “the DOJ political leadership fired seven well-respected U.S. Attorneys, dismissing some top Republican prosecutors because they had refused to prosecute nonexistent voter fraud.”


Those of us who deal in facts, rather than “alternative facts,” are willing to concede to a more reasonable four fraudulent ballots. Not 4 million, not 400, but 4.

It isn’t just Democrats who take issue with Trump’s accounting. There isn’t a single Republican member of Congress who is willing to back Trump’s claims of voter fraud. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) this week said, “I am begging the president, share with us the information you have about this or please stop saying it.”

But surely Trump isn’t just pulling the 3 million number from thin air. He appears to be quoting from a Pew Research Center report on the need to upgrade our aging voter registration system. The report found that as many as 2.75 million Americans are registered to vote in more than one state, which is what happens when you live in a country that lacks a national voter registration database.

David Becker, who wrote the Pew report, said, “As primary author of the report the Trump camp cited today, I can confirm that report made no findings re: voter fraud.” He continued, “We found millions of out of date registration records due to people moving or dying, but found no evidence that voter fraud resulted.”

Comically, a cursory investigation into some of these out of date records that Trump claims are voter fraud lead right back to member of team Trump. Both Tiffany Trump and senior advisor Steve Bannon are registered to vote in more than one state. Oops.

So why on earth is Trump talking about voter fraud?

First, it’s about Trump’s wounded ego. He lost the popular vote by about 3 million votes. He’s the most unpopular incoming president in history. He’s presidency is considered “illegitimate” by many. His sparsely attended Jan. 20 inauguration was dwarfed by the Jan. 21 Women’s March—a protest now considered perhaps the largest in U.S. history.

Trump’s very first press conference brought forth the comical and scary specter of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer accusing the media of “lying” about crowd size.  Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway then introduced America to the concept of “alternative facts” as a way of explaining the discrepancy. Trump himself brought up the attendance numbers at his CIA event and to numerous members of Congress. His unpopularity is killing him, and he’s taking it out on the rest of us.

Second, and more importantly, claims of voter fraud always precede new voter suppression actions. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has built his career on voter suppression laws. He is the leading architect of the “Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program,” a tool that allows states to share their voter registration data with the harmless sounding goal of identifying people who are registered in more than one state. In reality, the tool has a documented bias against people of color, and has resulted in massive and unlawful purging of legitimate voters from the voter rolls.

Kobach actually met with Trump immediately after the election, presumably to audition for a cabinet position. His meeting agenda was photographed, and includes the heading “Draft amendments to National Voter [Registration Act].” The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) significantly increased voter turnout by allowing citizens to register to vote simply by checking a box at the DMV.

Given Kobach’s career accomplishments, we can safely assume that his draft amendments would roll back the increased access afforded by the National Voter Registration Act. Trump’s “concerns” that “millions of illegals are voting” (his words, not mine) suggests that he and Kobach are would like to add a proof of citizenship requirement to the NVRA, which could force nationwide purges and the need to re-register literally every citizen. In a word, disastrous.

So what do we do now?

First, we need to remind ourselves that our ability to elect leaders is one of the things that makes America great. It’s what separates from authoritarian regimes such as Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and … Russia.

Second, we need to recognize that voter suppression is simply un-American. Some might go so far as to call voter suppression a form of “cheating.” I’m content to just call it distasteful.

Third, we need to demand that Trump’s policy decisions are based on actual facts, and not “alternative facts.” Policy decisions that defy facts are inappropriate. Full stop.

Finally, we need to remind our new president that he can’t make America great again by attacking our fundamental rights. The American people won’t stand for it.

Debra Cleaver is founder and chief executive officer of She has more than a decade of experience working to increase voter engagement.

The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump Election Lindsey Graham Politics Voting

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video