News & Politics

Trump's Call for Voter Fraud Investigation Based on Misquoted Research

Donald Trump’s claim that 3-5 million illegal votes were cast in the election has been criticized by the media as a “lie.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to that criticism by citing a Pew Research study and a recent paper by a professor at Old Dominion University (ODU) as proof that an investigation is warranted.

But now the ODU professor, Jesse Richman, is demanding that the White House stop misquoting his study. And it turns out the research by Pew was on problems with voter registration and not on voter fraud.

The Virginia Pilot reports:

Richman, an associate professor at Old Dominion University, found his work tangled up in Trump’s latest effort to support his unsubstantiated claim that millions of illegal ballots were cast in November – the reason Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million.

Trump announced Wednesday that he’s ordering a “major investigation” into voter fraud – a claim he first made on the campaign trail, then repeated this week at a meeting with Republican leaders.

Richman heard his research – or some twist on it – being cited by White House press secretary Sean Spicer as he defended Trump’s “long-standing belief” to a room full of reporters Tuesday:

“I think there have been studies; there was one that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who have voted were not citizens.”

Spicer got it all wrong, according to Richman.

“First of all, he’s confusing our study with another study,” Richman said, “and then he’s flipping ours around and exaggerating the most extreme estimates from it.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts did release a study in 2012 that indicated 1.8 million deceased voters remain on the rolls and millions of other voter records are out of date. But the study did not say anything about voter fraud.

The 14 percent cited by Spicer appears to have come from research Richman and ODU co-authors published in 2014, an analysis titled “Do non-citizens vote in U.S elections?“

Using data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, which interviews tens of thousands of people every election year, the ODU study concluded that, at most, “maybe 14 percent of non-citizens engaged in some type of voting behavior,” Richman said.

Repeat: That’s not 14 percent of all voters. That’s 14 percent of all non-citizens.

“And keep in mind that non-citizens are a fraction of the total U.S. population,” Richman said, around 20 million adults.

In reality, Richman believes, only about 1 percent of non-citizens register and vote.

But even at the top-end 14 percent, if every one of them voted for Clinton – which Richman says is statistically impossible – would that have been enough to cost Trump the popular vote?

“The answer is no,” Richman said.

The White House has yet to provide details about the investigation. In back-to-back tweets, the president revealed that it would cover “those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal” and “those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”

That Pew study is interesting not because it reveals voter fraud, but because it shows the incompetence, laziness, and just plain paralysis of state officials in charge of maintaining the voter rolls. The key to election integrity is to make sure the registration rolls are accurate and up to date — something our state officials have largely failed to do. It would help if the federal government didn’t sue states to prevent them from purging their registration rolls of the dead, of felons, and of duplicates, but that’s an issue that probably won’t arise in a Trump administration.

The Pew study found:

*Approximately 24 million—one of every eight—voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.

* More than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters.

* Approximately 2.75 million people have registrations in more than one state

This is inexcusable and, as we have seen, leads to some voter fraud. How much is open to debate, so a serious investigation is welcome.

Professor Richman is accusing the White House of taking the high estimate for the number of non-citizens that voted. He actually believes that about 1% of the 20 million non-citizens voted.

That’s still a significant number and gives the lie to liberal claims that voter fraud doesn’t exist. And it depends where those 200,000 votes were cast. Did they tip a Senate or House race to the Democrats? We may never know.

The White House is doing the cause of voting integrity no favors by massively and idiotically exaggerating the number of illegal votes. Do they really believe that thousands of Republican poll watchers across the country fell asleep and allowed this kind of record-breaking fraud Trump alludes to? It’s just not likely that fraud occurred in the millions of votes.

But any serious investigation will no doubt reveal that fraud occurred in significant numbers and that the entire electoral system needs to be overhauled from top to bottom.