Over the weekend, President Donald Trump issued a stern warning about attempts to tamper with the 2018 midterm election vote.
“All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING,” tweeted Trump. “Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!”
Sounds serious, right? Here’s the thing: There’s just no significant evidence of intentional voter fraud on anything near the scale Trump and his allies allege. Never has been.
There is study after study that make this fact plain.
In one, Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt tracked US elections from 2000 to 2014 in search of voter fraud, or, as he put it, “specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls.”
How many examples did he find? Exactly 31 – out of more than 1 billion instances. 31! (That’s an infinitesimally small number.) That’s not to say that each of those 31 instances of attempted voter fraud isn’t worth an investigation. We don’t want any voter fraud. But it is to say that 31 instances out of more than 1 billion is nothing anywhere close to widespread voter fraud.
The Levitt study is far from the only one to draw such a conclusion. A 5-year study on voter fraud commissioned by George W. Bush – a Republican – found that same conclusion as Levitt. Wrote The New York Times at the time: “The Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections.”
In the 2016 election, in which more than 135 million votes were cast, there were a total of four documented cases of voter fraud, according to The Washington Post’s Philip Bump.
There are lots more studies that show the same thing. Yes, there are times in which people impersonate someone else at the ballot box intentionally. But these are few and far between. And, yes, there are times when the same person votes – or tries to vote – twice. But that is almost always unintentional.
It’s not clear whether Trump a) knows all of this and chooses not to care or b) is unaware of the mountain of data that suggests the fraudulence of voter fraud claims.
Either way, he has a long history of pushing the idea that there is some sort of widespread attempt – by Democrats – to cheat the system via voter fraud. In the wake of his 2016 election victory, Trump insisted that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton (by nearly 3 million votes) because of alleged illegal votes. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted in late November 2016.
Soon after being sworn in, Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which had as its purpose, to sniff out and eradicate these broad voter fraud attempts. Less than a year after its formation, the Commission was disbanded by Trump. He blamed the decision on Democrats. “Many mostly Democrat States refused to hand over data from the 2016 Election to the Commission On Voter Fraud,” tweeted Trump in January 2018.”They fought hard that the Commission not see their records or methods because they know that many people are voting illegally. System is rigged, must go to Voter I.D.”
And now, just 15 days before the midterm election, Trump again raises the specter of widespread voter fraud – without providing a single shred of evidence of its existence. Because, of course, that evidence simply doesn’t exist.