Pro-Trump media are pushing a new voter fraud conspiracy theory

Pro-Trump media are pushing a new voter fraud conspiracy theory

Far-right sources are claiming that thousands of voters “unregistering” in Colorado are evidence of “mass voter fraud”

››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

Thousands of Coloradans have withdrawn their voter registrations in the wake of the Trump administration's election integrity commission’s request for personal voter data. Far-right media are claiming that the people canceling their registrations are “illegal” voters removing themselves from the rolls. In reality, deregistrations have been attributed to voters’ concerns over the confidentiality of their personal data, as well as their distrust of the Trump administration's commission. 


Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

Thousands of people withdrew their voter registrations after Colorado agreed to provide some data to Trump’s election integrity commission

Over 3,300 Coloradans canceled their voter registrations after Trump’s election commission requested personal voter data from states. In Colorado, 3,394 people “canceled their voter registrations” after President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission requested voter data from the states, according to The Denver Post. According to the Post, Colorado officials said “that voters have typically given them two reasons for the withdrawals: They don’t trust President Donald Trump’s voter integrity commission, and they didn’t realize how much of their voter registration information was already public under state law. From the July 13 article:

Nearly 3,400 Coloradans canceled their voter registrations in the wake of the Trump administration’s request for voter info, the Secretary of State’s Office confirmed Thursday, providing the first statewide glimpse at the extent of the withdrawals.

The 3,394 cancellations represent a vanishingly small percentage of the electorate — 0.09 percent of the state’s 3.7 million registered voters. But the figure is striking nonetheless, with some county election officials reporting that they’ve never seen anything quite like it in their careers.

The withdrawals began in earnest earlier this month, after a presidential advisory commission on election integrity requested publicly available voter information from all 50 states.

County election officials told The Denver Post that voters have typically given them two reasons for the withdrawals: They don’t trust President Donald Trump’s voter integrity commission, and they didn’t realize how much of their voter registration information was already public under state law. [The Denver Post, 7/13/17]

Pro-Trump and fringe outlets make the unfounded claim that deregistrations are evidence of voter fraud

Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft: Deregistrations are proof of “obvious voter fraud.” The Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft asserted that Democrats are “pretending” that the withdrawn registrations were the result of “voter suppression,” rather than proof of “obvious voter fraud.” From the July 15 article:

Top Democrats are worried after thousands of likely illegal voters cancelled their registrations in Colorado.

More than 3,000 Colorado voters withdrew their registrations since the Trump administration’s election integrity commission requested available voter information from the states.

Hillary Clinton defeated President Donald Trump in Colorado by 136,000 votes.

Democrats are worried that may change if more voters withdraw their registrations.

Democrats are pretending this is voter suppression rather than the obvious voter fraud that caused voters to deregister. [The Gateway Pundit, 7/15/17]

Fake News Purveyor TruthFeed: Voter registration cancellation “likely signal[s] vote fraud.”Fake news purveyor Truthfeed claimed that the withdrawn registrations are “red flags [that] likely signal voter fraud,” suggesting more might be found in states that are “refusing to cooperate” with Trump’s electoral commission. From the July 9 article:

As President Trump’s voter integrity commission works hard to verify our voting system in America is fair, some warning flags have been raised in Colorado.

Voter registrations are being withdrawn at an alarming rate.

Those red flags likely signal voter fraud.

Imagine what they’d find in the states like Virgina and New York, who are refusing to cooperate? [TruthFeed, 7/9/17; Media Matters, 12/14/16]

Fake News Purveyors The Washington Feed and TruthFeed: “What’s been uncovered” in Colorado are “clear indications of voter fraud.”.” Fake news purveyors The Washington Feed and TruthFeed published the same article alleging that the number of canceled registrations is “nearly unheard of,” and a it is a “clear indication of voter fraud, and people who were registered to vote, that shouldn’t be voting.” From the July 16 article (emphasis original):

While many states are blocking President Trump’s “voter integrity” commission, which is looking into our electoral process to ensure fair elections, Colorado is not, and what’s been uncovered there is VERY alarming.

Upon word of the voter commission looking into elections, there’s been a sudden DROP in voter registration.

Furthermore, nearly 3,500 hundred people have CANCELED their current voter registration – a number that’s nearly unheard of.

These are clear indications of voter fraud, and people who were registered to vote, that shouldn’t be voting.

Illegals?

Yep, I’d take that bet. [Truthfeed, 7/16/17; The Washington Feed, 6/10/17; Media Matters, 12/14/16; Snopes, 1/18/17]

Fake news purveyor Angry Patriot: “When people pull their voter registration that quickly, it usually means they knew they were doing wrong the entire time.” Fake news purveyor The Angry Patriot asserted, “When people pull their voter registration that quickly, it usually means they knew they were doing wrong the entire time,” adding, “The gig is up.” From the article (emphasis original):

One of the biggest problems our country has faced in recent years is the population boom as illegal immigrants flood through our border. President Trump came up with a plan to shake some of these folks up, and it worked perfectly.

Aside from just entering the country, these illegals are voting in our elections — which could have devastating results, depending on the area, type of election being held, and so forth. Colorado finally agreed that they would start following Trump’s voter fraud laws.

According to Washington Examiner, as soon as the state agreed to go under the examination of Trump’s election integrity commission, hundreds of people in each district started withdrawing their registrations.

This sends a strong message to the rest of the country. When people pull their voter registration that quickly, it usually means they knew they were doing wrong the entire time. The gig is up.

[...]

We believe that this voter fraud committee might be the best thing to happen to our election system in years. It is crucial that we stop illegal immigrants from coming to our country, leeching off our welfare system, and voting for the left. [Angry Patriot, July 2017; Media Matters, 12/14/16]

Breitbart’s Curt Schilling: “Wouldn’t you know [to] follow up [with] those illegal voters removing themselves” from the voter rolls? Breitbart’s Curt Schilling shared an article highlighting those who cancelled their voter registrations, writing, “wouldn’t you know [to] follow up [with] those illegal voters removing themselves” from the voter rolls?

[Twitter, 7/15/17]

Radio host Bill Mitchell: Coloradans are“CANCELLING their registrations ...Because they’re FAKE.”

[Twitter, 7/8/177/16/17]

Voter Registration Irregularities And Voter Fraud Are Not The Same

Brennan Center Found No Instances Of Voter Registration Fraud Resulting In “An Attempt To Cast A Fraudulent Vote.” Brennan Center counsel Justin Levitt testified before the Senate on the issue of voter fraud and reported that while “occasionally, and now more rarely there are reports of fraudulent registration forms - usually involving rogue workers,” the Brennan Center found “no recent substantiated case in which such registration fraud has resulted in an attempt to cast a fraudulent vote.” From his written testimony (citations omitted):

Some of these post-election reports actually do present worrisome allegations of fraud - but only rarely do they involve allegations of in-person impersonation fraud. Instead, they allege schemes involving fraudulent absentee ballots;or absentee voters who have been coerced; or conspiracies to buy votes; or efforts to tamper with ballots or machines or counting systems. Occasionally, and now more rarely, there are reports of fraudulent registration forms - usually involving rogue workers hoping to cheat nonprofit organizations out of an honest effort to register real citizens. We are aware of no recent substantiated case in which such registration fraud has resulted in an attempt to cast a fraudulent vote. All of these reports should be investigated, and any wrongdoing should not be condoned. Yet they too should not be confused with in-person impersonation fraud. [Testimony Given Before U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, 3/12/08]

STUDY: Complex Voter Registration Laws Spur Clerical Mistakes That Are “Wrongly Identified As ‘Fraud.’” A study by Columbia University professor Lorraine Minnite found that the increasing complexity of voter registration laws makes “voter mistakes” and “clerical errors” more likely and that such mistakes are often “wrongly identified as ‘fraud.’” Furthermore, the study concluded that “voter fraud is extremely rare” and that often reports of voter fraud were “unsubstantiated or false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.” [Project Voter, March 2007]

Experts agree that widespread voter fraud doesn’t exist

PBS: In-person voting fraud is rare, doesn’t affect elections. A PBS article about the 2016 election and in-person voter fraud cited professor Lorraine Minnite, who said that “voter impersonation is rare because it’s difficult to do on a large-enough scale to tip an election” so it’s “irrational to even try just for one or two more votes.” The article cited a study showing that “voter impersonation at the ballot box” -- the type of fraud that “voter IDs are designed to prevent” -- “is virtually non-existent.” From the August 20, 2016, article:

While fraud can occur, the number of cases is very small and the type that voter IDs are designed to prevent — voter impersonation at the ballot box — is virtually non-existent.

News21, a reporting project affiliated with Arizona State University, in 2012 found 2,068 cases of election fraud nationwide since 2000. Of those, just 10 involved voter impersonation — or one out of every 15 million prospective voters. More common was absentee mail-in ballot fraud, with 491 cases. None affected the outcome of an election.

Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Rutgers University-Camden, says voter impersonation fraud is rare because it’s difficult to do on a large-enough scale to tip an election.

“It’s so irrational to even try just for one or two more votes,” said Minnite, author of “The Myth of Voter Fraud.”

In court cases that temporarily invalidated some of the ID laws, including North Carolina, Wisconsin and North Dakota, election officials could barely cite a case in which a person was charged with in-person voting fraud. [PBS.org, 8/20/16]

The New Yorker: Experts agree that voter impersonation is "virtually non-existent." Experts agree that actual incidents of in-person voter fraud -- the type of voter fraud that strict voter ID laws can prevent -- are exceedingly rare and that fears of voter fraud have been largely invented as a way to, as election law scholar Richard Hasen put it, "‘excite the base,’" according to The New Yorker:

[Election law scholar Richard] Hasen says that, while researching "The Voting Wars," he "tried to find a single case" since 1980 when "an election outcome could plausibly have turned on voter-impersonation fraud." He couldn't find one. News21, an investigative-journalism group, has reported that voter impersonation at the polls is a "virtually non-existent" problem. After conducting an exhaustive analysis of election-crime prosecutions since 2000, it identified only seven convictions for impersonation fraud. None of those cases involved conspiracy.

Lorraine Minnite, a public-policy professor at Rutgers, collated decades of electoral data for her 2010 book, "The Myth of Voter Fraud," and came up with some striking statistics. In 2005, for example, the federal government charged many more Americans with violating migratory-bird statutes than with perpetrating election fraud, which has long been a felony. She told me, "It makes no sense for individual voters to impersonate someone. It's like committing a felony at the police station, with virtually no chance of affecting the election outcome." A report by the Times in 2007 also found election fraud to be rare. During the Bush Administration, the Justice Department initiated a five-year crackdown on voter fraud, but only eighty-six people were convicted of any kind of election crime.

Hasen, who calls [Republican lawyer Hans] von Spakovsky a leading member of "the Fraudulent Fraud Squad," told me that he respects many other conservative advocates in his area of expertise, but dismisses scholars who allege widespread voter-impersonation fraud. "I see them as foot soldiers in the Republican army," he says. "It's just a way to excite the base. They are hucksters. They're providing fake scholarly support. They're not playing fairly with the facts. And I think they know it." [The New Yorker, 10/29/12]

STUDY: Just 31 cases of in-person voter fraud found in more than 1 billion votes. According to a 2014 study conducted by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt -- which he wrote about in The Washington Post -- there were 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." And as explained by Levitt, in-person voter fraud is the only type of fraud strict voter ID laws are "designed to stop." From a 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.

So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country. If you want to check my work, you can read a comprehensive list of the incidents below.

To put this in perspective, the 31 incidents below come in the context of general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period. [The Washington Post, 8/6/14]

Brennan Center For Justice: These recurring claims of voter fraud "simply do not pan out." A 2007 article by New York University School of Law's Brennan Center explained that in-person voter fraud is not a legitimate justification for strict voter ID laws, because voter impersonation is "more rare than getting struck by lightning":

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.

By throwing all sorts of election anomalies under the "voter fraud" umbrella, however, advocates for such laws artificially inflate the apparent need for these restrictions and undermine the urgency of other reforms.

Moreover, as with all restrictions on voters, photo identification requirements have a predictable detrimental impact on eligible citizens. Such laws are only potentially worthwhile if they clearly prevent more problems than they create.

[...]

Royal Masset, the former political director for the Republican Party of Texas, concisely tied all of these strands together in a 2007 Houston Chronicle article concerning a highly controversial battle over photo identification legislation in Texas. Masset connected the inflated furor over voter fraud to photo identification laws and their expected impact on legitimate voters: Among Republicans it is an “article of religious faith that voter fraud is causing us to lose elections,” Masset said. He doesn't agree with that, but does believe that requiring photo IDs could cause enough of a dropoff in legitimate Democratic voting to add 3 percent to the Republican vote.

This remarkably candid observation underscores why it is so critical to get the facts straight on voter fraud. The voter fraud phantom drives policy that disenfranchises actual legitimate voters, without a corresponding actual benefit. Virtuous public policy should stand on more reliable supports. [Brennan Center For Justice, 2007]

Voter fraud expert Michael McDonald: Isolated incidents of voter fraud are “little molehills” that “get blown out of proportion into mountains.” During an interview with CNN’s Carol Costello, voter fraud expert Michael McDonald emphasized that “the overwhelming number of votes will be cast and recorded correctly.” He noted that the “isolated instances of vote fraud” are “little molehills” that “get blown out of proportion into mountains.” From the August 4 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello:

CAROL COSTELLO (HOST): Just tell us how much research you poured into to finding out if there really is a widespread problem with voter fraud in the United States.

MICHAEL MCDONALD: Well, I'd like to start off by just giving a big thank you to all the election officials. They're working hard right now to make sure that everyone has a pleasant voting experience and the elections are going to be conducted in a secure manner. And that said, whenever you have millions of people engage in any activity, you're going to have a couple bumps along the way. That's just human nature. So we shouldn't let those little molehills get blown out of proportion into mountains. Yes there are isolated instances of vote fraud, but upon further examination, most of those allegations turn out to be incorrect. Let me give you an example since we are talking about voter ID as well. One of the sponsors of the voter ID law in North Carolina was accused of voting twice. Election officials went back, looked at the records, and what did they find? They found that his mother had signed on his line of the poll books. So his vote had been -- a false vote had been recorded as him voting twice. In most of the allegations, when we start looking very closely at the allegations, and that's the study you reference, when we start looking very closely at these allegations, they just don't pan out. And so to Donald Trump, and anybody else who's very concerned about vote fraud, let me tell you this, that in November, the overwhelming -- overwhelming -- number of votes will be cast and recorded correctly and that we can be assured that the results will be right.

COSTELLO: So Michael, when you say, when you say there are tiny bumps, like give us a perspective. Like how many cases of voter fraud -- true voter fraud -- did you find in what period of time?

MCDONALD: Well, the study that I looked at was a particular state and it looked at sort of these record issues of matching and trying to find double voters. And, again, all of the allegations that we looked at in that particular study appeared to me just to be just mistakes and it wasn't a real case of vote fraud. Another study on voter impersonation, not double voting or multiple voting, found 31 allegations -- and these are only allegations -- of vote fraud between 2000 and 2014. Thirty-one out of a billion votes cast. So in order to change the outcome of the election, 31 votes just isn't going to cut it.

COSTELLO: So why do politicians -- and it's not just Donald Trump, it's other politicians as well -- why do they insist that there's widespread voter fraud in this country?

MCDONALD: Well what are the allegations? They first come out and it sounds like there are thousands of people engaged in this activity. And those are the initial stories that come out. And then the further investigation we find that that's not really true. And so we're left with this impression that things are going really wrong, but the reality is is that the elections are being run really smoothly. There's also unfortunately a political component to this too. Because these allegations are then used to justify laws like voter identification, which the courts are now determining that they are discriminatory and that we shouldn't have them in place for our elections.

COSTELLO: Yeah, and just to review, judges in North Dakota, Kansas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas have softened voter ID laws because they suppressed minority votes. So, when you talk about an election being rigged, is this more an example of an election being rigged than people voting 20 times?

MCDONALD: That's a excellent question. So when I'm talking about rigged elections, I'm talking about the administration of the elections. There's a higher level of manipulation of elections that can occur, which is through the laws that set the playing field how the elections will be run. And those rules unfortunately over our history of our country have suppressed votes at one time or another and have shaped the contours of the electorate. I'm not talking about those laws. What I'm talking about is someone who's going to go in and vote. You can be assured that your vote will be cast and recorded correctly. [CNN, CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, 8/4/16]

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