On first glance, requiring voters to have photo IDs in order to vote sounds like a good, common-sense idea. Voter ID cards make sure you are who you say you are before you cast your ballot, according to supporters of voter ID laws, many of which have already gained passage in a number of states. Advocates for tougher voter ID laws argue identification cards ensure the integrity of elections, making sure they are fair and free, and help to stop voter fraud from occurring.
Except there is no such thing as widespread voter fraud. Despite the many years Republicans in state legislatures have spent banging the gong about the boogeyman of voter fraud and then-candidate Donald Trump’s own allegation of “rigged” elections, there is no evidence to indicate that there is fraud being committed by voters.
Now, as president, Trump has waded back into the issue of voter fraud, alleging that his loss in the popular vote was the result of millions of unauthorized immigrants voting illegally. In an interview on ABC News this week, Trump repeated that claim along with the other GOP talking points about voter fraud — that dead people are registered to vote and that people are registered in more than one state.
When Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is apparently advising Trump in this folly, completed a review of 84 million votes that had been cast in 22 states, he found a fraud rate — hold on, here come a lot of zeros — of .00000017 percent. And a 2014 study by Loyola Law School found 31 cases of fraud out of 1 billion ballots cast since 2000, a number even the Brennan Center for Justice said was “inflated” because the study tallied more than just prosecutions and convictions. A survey of the 2016 election by researchers at Dartmouth University recently concluded there was “no evidence” of voter fraud, and even Trump’s own lawyers took that position in a filing to oppose a recount effort by Green Party presidential contender Jill Stein in Michigan. This week, the co-author of a 2014 study on illegal voting by Old Dominion University himself fessed up that he most likely “vastly overstated” the incidence of fraudulent ballots in the 2008 election.
For many years, Republican politicians and activists such as James O’Keefe of Project Veritas have pointed to the reality of voters being registered in more than one state as evidence of fraud, and Trump has repeated that assertion on Twitter and with ABC News. But you shouldn’t have to get up that early in the morning to spot that canard. The United States is one of the most mobile societies in the world, and chances are that as Americans move from state to state, they don’t check in at their local elections office to cancel their voter registration. According to recent reports, even Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, Trump’s daughter Tiffany, his treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, and his top strategist and former Breitbart publisher Stephen Bannon (who has been writing Trump’s executive orders and likely wrote the one on voter fraud) all are registered to vote in more than one state. Oopsie.
If Trump and congressional Republicans, along with lawmakers in Republican-dominated legislatures want to address the problem of duplicate registrations, they can do it by increasing funding for state and county elections offices to hire more staffers to administer the voting rolls and to buy better equipment for record-keeping. And voters can do their part in treating their voter registrations as importantly as they treat their change-of-address notifications at the post office.
Trump repeats his claim about voter fraud in the face of reams of evidence to the contrary. But by recklessly repeating that old saw that the “enemy is us,” that whom we should be most wary of, most suspicious of, are our fellow Americans, Trump undermines our faith and trust in our elections, in our government and in our fellow Americans. These baseless, trumped-up allegations about fraud result in ever more disenfranchised voters — those made the victims of onerous voter suppression laws and those who choose to stay away from the voting booth altogether, convinced that their single vote won’t count anyway.
There’s your fraud.