Political Focus: Trump’s claims of voter fraud

Melissa Deatsch, Sports Editor

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Though President Donald Trump was elected by the Electoral College, he lost the popular vote by a greater margin than any other previously elected U.S. president. This margin of almost 3 million votes has fueled Trump’s allegations of voter fraud and prompted him to call for a full investigation into the matter.  

Trump claims that 3 million to 5 million votes were cast illegally on Election Day, though he hasn’t provided any evidence to accompany the claim.  

Does voter fraud really exist?

There are many different types of voter fraud. On Twitter, Trump said the investigation will focus on voter fraud in which people are registered to vote in two states, votes are cast by noncitizens and votes are cast in the names of people who are dead.  

It is important to note that it is not illegal to be registered to vote in multiple states. It is, however, illegal to cast a vote in multiple states, which is presumably the voter fraud Trump was referring to in his tweet.

Both of Trump’s other two examples are indeed instances of voter fraud. Being a U.S. citizen is one of the requirements to vote in a U.S. election, and dead people may remain on the voter registry, allowing people the ability to fraudulently cast votes in their names.

Studies conducted in the past have shown that, yes, voter fraud does exist. However, not on the scale that Trump is claiming.  

A 2007 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, discussed in Justin Levitt’s “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” found that voter fraud rates were between 0.0004 and 0.0009 percent at the time.  

A registration system in need of an upgrade

On Jan. 24, when asked why Trump is convinced of such a high rate of voter fraud, Press Secretary Sean Spicer cited a 2008 Pew Research Center study that claimed 14 percent of votes cast in 2008 were cast by noncitizens. This citation is false for a couple of reasons.

First, Spicer appears to have been combining two different studies.

The Pew Research Center study he was presumably attempting to refer to came out in 2012 and was conducted on outdated voter registrations, not fraudulent votes. It found that one in every eight voter registrations in the U.S. is outdated or inaccurate. It showed that the U.S. registration system is “inaccurate, costly, and inefficient” and in need of an upgrade or better management. However, the report made no claims in regard to voter fraud.

There is however, an Old Dominion University study that shows 14 percent of its sample of noncitizens were registered to vote.  However, this study has been widely dismissed by credible researchers due to its methodology.  

As Politifact explained, the claim that 14 percent of votes cast in 2008 were by noncitizens would add up to “more than 18 million fraudulent votes — an implausible assertion, considering the total noncitizen population was about 22.5 million in 2010.”

The debate over voter ID laws

The issue of voter fraud stems into the greater debate surrounding voter ID laws. CNN reported that 34 states require some sort of identification at the polls. Some of those states require photo IDs, which opponents argue are sometimes difficult for minorities and those living in poverty to obtain. 

Opponents see these laws as an infringement on the right to vote. However, supporters say they are a simple way to maintain the integrity of the voting process.