Right-Wing Media Misinterpret North Carolina Post-Election Audit To Fearmonger About Voter Fraud
Research ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN
Right-wing media are citing a North Carolina statewide audit of votes cast in the 2016 election to stir fears of widespread voter fraud. The audit itself, however, found that ineligible votes “represented a small fraction of the 4.8 million ballots cast” and found no evidence of rampant voter fraud in North Carolina, conclusions that align with other studies that have also found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
North Carolina Post-Election Audit Finds Few Examples Of Voter Fraud In 2016
Post-Election Audit Findings In North Carolina “Contradict Republican Claims That Voter Fraud Runs Rampant” In The State. The North Carolina State Board of Elections found in a post-election audit that “about 500 ineligible voters cast ballots in the 2016 general election,” which, according to a report from the Associated Press (AP), was “not enough to change the outcome of any race.” The audit findings -- including that “most incidents [of ineligible votes cast were] isolated and uncoordinated” and that the ineligible votes represent “a tiny fraction” of total ballots cast -- “contradict Republican claims that voter fraud runs rampant in North Carolina.” From the April 21 AP report:
North Carolina elections officials found that about 500 ineligible voters cast ballots in the 2016 general election - but not enough to change the outcome of any race, according to an audit released Friday.
The State Board of Elections report said the 508 cases - the vast majority active felons - represented a small fraction of the 4.8 million ballots cast. The report didn't include any evidence of coordinated fraud, and many of the voters claimed to be confused about their eligibility.
Right-Wing Media Misinterpret Report To Fearmonger About Voter Fraud
Fox’s Tucker Carlson: “Major Elections Have Turned On Fewer Votes” Than Number Of Votes Audit Found To Be Fraudulent. Fox host Tucker Carlson claimed that “major elections have turned on fewer votes” than the number the North Carolina audit found to be fraudulent. From the April 25 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): People have faith on the left that voter fraud never happens. It’s a myth, they’ll tell you, something that was cooked up by right-wingers in order to take people’s civil rights away. Democrats believe this so strongly, or pretend they do, that many will argue strenuously against taking any steps to protect against voter fraud because, again, it doesn't even exist. Well someone finally decided to check on that question. An audit just released by North Carolina's bipartisan Board of Elections found that of 4.8 million votes cast in that state, at least 508 appear to be fraudulent, mostly in the form of convicted felons voting illegally. Dozens more voted despite not being citizens. Others voted twice. A handful were caught impersonating other people. Now that's 508 votes, doesn't sound like a lot until you remember that major elections have turned on fewer votes than that. In Florida, for example, in 2000, had the same level of voter fraud as North Carolina taken place, it would be about 800 hundred votes, proportionally. George W. Bush won that state and the presidency, you’ll remember, by 537 votes. So it does matter, which Democrats probably know in the first place, hence their position on it. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 4/25/17]
Frequent Fox Guest J. Christian Adams: “We Should Have Clean Elections,” And The NC Audit Shows “That’s Not Happening Now.” In an appearance on Fox & Friends Sunday, frequent Fox guest J. Christian Adams, pointing to the North Carolina audit, asserted, “We should have clean elections where only people who are eligible to vote are voting. And that's not happening now.” From the April 23 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Sunday:
ABBY HUNTSMAN (CO-HOST): Well, since his inauguration, President Trump has brought a light to illegal voting and has been slammed for doing so. But recent findings in North Carolina show that some irregular voting did occur.
CONNELL MCSHANE (CO-HOST): Nearly 4.8 million people in North Carolina voted in the election in 2016, the most, by the way, in state history. However, there are and now 441 open cases of voting by suspected felons. Forty-one noncitizens casting ballots as well and 24 people apparently managed to vote twice. And there are two cases that were reported of voter impersonation. So for more on all of this we turn to an expert on illegal voting, former DOJ official and president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, J. Christian Adams. Thank you, sir, for joining us. We appreciate it very much. I will say that out of 4.8 million, to have like 500 is not statistically significant. It’s like 0.01 percent. That said, the idea there are so many felons on this list, a few hundred felons, is that significant to you?
J. CHRISTIAN ADAMS: Well, it is but don't forget, this is only what they caught. That doesn't mean they’ve caught every one. And when you look across the country, you have millions of people on the rolls with bad registrations. Noncitizens, people who have died, it makes a difference in some places. But just because it doesn't make a difference in turning an election doesn't mean it doesn't matter. We should have clean elections where only people who are eligible to vote are voting. And that's not happening now.
The system is broken and needs work. The media, other networks will tell you there is no voter fraud. When I was at the Justice Department, the Obama Justice Department shut down enforcement of voter roll laws. And then you have [George] Soros-funded groups who are constantly going to court to preserve the status quo. Everything is working against clean elections, and thank heavens the president is saying something right. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 4/23/17]
RedState’s Susan Wright: Audit Shows That Voter Fraud Claims “May Have Had Merit.” RedState contributor Susan Wright claimed that the audit is “absolute proof that there was foul play in the 2016 election,” adding, “There really were too many complaints of fraud that were ignored or swept aside, and now this audit is proving that those complaints may have had merit.” From the April 22 RedState post (emphasis original):
Now, there seems to be a bit of supporting evidence for former Governor Pat McCrory and those who wanted to see an investigation of what felt so strongly of a corrupted vote in the state.
According to an audit released on Friday by the State Board of Elections, there were over 500 votes that they found which were cast illegally.
First of all, while 532 votes would not have turned the election, it is absolute proof that there was foul play in the 2016 election, just as many of us suspected. The Board of Elections dismissal of concerns of the citizens, especially in light of these new facts is nothing short of malpractice.
If nothing else, this audit shows that there is a very real concern and that voter ID is needed to keep our elections fair and untainted.
I will never just accept that Pat McCrory lost in 2016. There really were too many complaints of fraud that were ignored or swept aside, and now this audit is proving that those complaints may have had merit. [RedState, 4/22/17]
The NC Audit Showed No Evidence Of Widespread Voter Fraud
Charlotte Observer Editorial: The Audit Found "The State's Elections Are Sound And Virtually Fraud-Free." The Charlotte Observer editorial board wrote that the audit "finds the state’s elections are sound and virtually fraud-free," pointing out that "out of nearly 4.8 million" ineligible votes, "one (1) would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law." From the April 24 editorial:
On Friday, the State Board of Elections released the results of an extensive, objective audit of the 2016 election. It found that 4,769,640 votes were cast in November and that one (1) would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law. One out of nearly 4.8 million.
[The audit] found 508 ineligible votes cast. About 87 percent of those (441) were felons who voted. State law prohibits felons from voting until their sentence is fully served, including probation and parole. It is believed that many of the felons who voted did not realize they could not vote while on probation.
The probe found 41 non-citizens, from 28 countries, voted. All were here legally, but were not eligible to vote. The audit also found 24 cases of double-voting and two cases of voter impersonation (one by mail and one in person).
After the off-base outcry from then-Gov. Pat McCrory and Republicans, it is heartening that an independent investigation finds the state’s elections are sound and virtually fraud-free. [The Charlotte Observer, 4/24/17]
Vox: Ineligible Votes Exposed By The Audit “Were Less About Malicious Election Rigging And More About People Voting When They Didn’t Know They Weren’t Supposed To.” Vox pointed out that most of the faulty votes the audit uncovered “were less about malicious election rigging and more about people voting when they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to,” with only one case of “in-person voter impersonation.” Vox also pointed out that “these votes weren’t a big part of the overall election results” and that the ineligible votes wouldn’t have swung “almost any election.” From the April 26 article :
The state audit looked at faulty votes on Election Day 2016. In total, it found that 508 ineligible votes were cast.
That’s an alarming number. But the individual circumstances suggest these ineligible votes were less about malicious election rigging and more about people voting when they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to.
About 441 of 508 ineligible votes were reportedly cast by felons who are supposed to be legally barred from voting — and it’s believed that these people just didn’t know they’re not allowed to vote under North Carolina law while on probation. Another 41 were cast by noncitizens with legal status in the US — some of whom likely believed, incorrectly, that they were allowed to vote.
As the Charlotte Observer noted, “[T]he primary cause appears to be a lack of understanding about the law.”
Another 24 ballots involved double voting. One was voter impersonation by mail. Just one was in-person voter impersonation. And there were no reported, credible cases of unauthorized immigrants voting.
To be sure, it would be nice if there weren’t any ineligible votes.
Ultimately, however, these votes weren’t a big part of the overall election results: The 508 ineligible votes made up just 0.01 percent of all votes cast in the election. The 26 votes that didn’t involve felons or noncitizens made up 0.0005 percent of all votes. And the one in-person voter impersonation case made up 0.00002 percent of all votes.
This is not going to swing almost any election. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the state by 3.6 percent. Even in the unusually close governor’s race, Democrat Roy Cooper beat Pat McCrory by about 0.1 percent, or nearly 10 times the number of all ineligible votes cast. [Vox, 4/26/17]
Studies Have Found No Evidence Of Widespread Voter Fraud
Wash. Post: 2014 Study Found Only 31 Cases Of In-Person Voter Fraud In More Than 1 Billion Votes. Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt wrote in The Washington Post that he found only 31 credible allegations of in-person voter fraud among the more than 1 billion votes cast in "general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014." From the August 7, 2014, Washington Post article:
Election fraud happens. But ID laws are not aimed at the fraud you'll actually hear about. Most current ID laws (Wisconsin is a rare exception) aren't designed to stop fraud with absentee ballots (indeed, laws requiring ID at the polls push more people into the absentee system, where there are plenty of real dangers). Or vote buying. Or coercion. Or fake registration forms. Or voting from the wrong address. Or ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam. In the 243-page document that Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel filed on Monday with evidence of allegedly illegal votes in the Mississippi Republican primary, there were no allegations of the kind of fraud that ID can stop.
Instead, requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for pretty much one thing: people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to each cast one incremental fake ballot. This is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens. [The Washington Post, 8/6/14, Media Matters, 8/7/14]
Academic Studies Have Found Very Little Voter Fraud. The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham noted “there is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare,” listing multiple examples. From a July 9, 2014, article:
But there is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and in fact non-existent at the levels imagined by voter ID proponents.
The Politics of Voter Fraud, by Lorraine Minnite of Columbia University. Minnite concludes that voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and that the few allegations in the record usually turn out to be something other than voter fraud: "a review of news stories over a recent two year period found that reports of voter fraud were most often limited to local races and individual acts and fell into three categories: unsubstantiated or false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error."
Fraudulent Votes, Voter Identification and the 2012 US General Election, by John Ahlquist and Kenneth R. Mayer of the University of Wisconsin, and Simon Jackman of Stanford. The authors conducted a survey experiment "to measure the prevalence of two speciﬁc types of voter fraud: repeat/fraudulent ballot casting and vote buying." Their conclusion: "The notion that voter impersonation is a widespread behavior is totally contradicted by these data."
Voter Identifications Laws, by Minnite again. "In 95 percent of so-called 'cemetery voting' alleged in the 2010 midterm election in South Carolina, human error accounts for nearly all of what the state's highest law enforcement official had informed the U.S. Department of Justice was fraud."
Caught in the Act: Recent Federal Election Fraud Cases, by Delia Bailey of the Washington University in St. Louis. Bailey unearthed only nine federal election fraud cases occurring between 2000 and 2005.
They Just Do Not Vote Like They Used To: A Methodology to Empirically Assess Election Fraud, by M.V. Hood III of the University of Georgia and William Gillespie of Kennesaw State University. "After examining approximately 2.1 million votes cast during the 2006 general election in Georgia, we find no evidence that election fraud was committed under the auspices of deceased registrants." [The Washington Post, 7/9/14]
Brennan Center For Justice: Voter Impersonation Is "More Rare Than Getting Struck By Lightning." According to 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, instances of the type of voter impersonation that voter ID laws are designed to stop are "more rare than getting struck by lightning." From the 2007 report:
The most common example of the harm wrought by imprecise and inflated claims of "voter fraud" is the call for in-person photo identification requirements. Such photo ID laws are effective only in preventing individuals from impersonating other voters at the polls -- an occurrence more rare than getting struck by lightning. [Brennan Center For Justice, 2007]