Voter Fraud and Suppression | Media Matters for America

Voter Fraud and Suppression

Tags ››› Voter Fraud and Suppression
  • How one man's fake news websites are trying to undermine the Alabama Senate election

    A man who "trolls" conservatives is using his "satire" websites in an attempt at delegitimizing Alabama's Senate election

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A man vocal about his aims to deceive conservatives with his “satire” websites has created multiple made-up stories alleging voter fraud in the Alabama Senate special election. Some of these made-up stories have gone viral and were subsequently copied by fake news websites in an attempt to delegitimize the election and fuel right-wing myths about widespread voter fraud.

    Christopher Blair is a self-professed troll who tries to deceive conservatives with stories on multiple websites he claims are satire, and has smeared people in his content. In the lead up to the Alabama special election between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, Blair’s websites published multiple stories attempting to discredit numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore by making up other women who, according to the stories, were caught in their lies against the Republican candidate. One story, claiming that one of Moore’s accusers admitted on MSNBC that she lied, was shared so much on social media (in part thanks to fake news websites that ran with it) that Alabama conservative radio host Dale Jackson complained that “people keep sending” this fake news to him and a fact-checker from FactCheck.org told NPR that she was forced to debunk it.

    Since the day of the Alabama election, Blair and his websites have run nearly a dozen stories suggesting there was rampant voter fraud. These stories contain false allegations such as that polling officials caught a "van full of illegals" who were voting in multiple polling locations, that thousands of dead people voted for Jones, that a “busload of blacks from 3 states drove to Alabama” to vote for Jones, and that black people were caught voting multiple times with "fake IDs," among others. As The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel noted, some of these stories went viral. Other fake news websites shared the story about a “van full of illegals," and it received nearly 40,000 Facebook engagements combined, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo. The “fake IDs” story, which the Montgomery Advertiser also noted was fake, was also shared and engaged with by thousands on social media. The stories were further amplified thanks to fake news websites.

    As evidenced by the comments, many people who shared and responded to the made-up voter fraud stories on social media believed them to be true, writing that it showed that “we have to have voter I.D. in order to vote” and, “That's how the Dems have played for years, if you like a candidate vote 3 or 4 times, be sure the dead vote.” Blair even egged on some of these people, with the Facebook page for his website The Last Line of Defense writing back to someone who seemed to believe the “van full of illegals” story, “This is why we’re here, patriot. This is why we’re here.”

    Blair’s actions are helping fuel existing right-wing efforts to push widespread voter fraud myths. He’s been launching more “satire” websites over the past several weeks, and some of those new websites have also published a few of these made-up Alabama stories. In the past, Blair has apologized for smearing fallen soldier Sgt. La David Johnson and a Toronto-based imam, but his stories continue to defame others and are given a bigger platform when fake news websites pick them up. Adding to the dubiousness of his apologies, Blair and his writers have lashed out at people who have criticized them and been forced to debunk his stories. And recently, Blair called criticism of the Alabama stories “hyperbolic” and again defended his stories as just “satire” in a Facebook post, showing his refusal to accept responsibility for spreading lies.

  • On Breitbart radio, Kris Kobach repeats debunked claims about New Hampshire voter fraud

    Kobach is a leader of Trump's voter suppression commission and a paid Breitbart columnist

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & KATIE SULLIVAN

    On Breitbart News Daily, Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the Trump administration’s commission investigating baseless claims of rampant voter fraud, estimated that “4,000 people who are from out of state and never actually moved to New Hampshire … voted there” in the 2016 election using out-of-state driver’s licenses. In fact, New Hampshire’s voter ID law permits out-of-state driver’s licenses to be used as proof of identity when registering to vote, an option that college students often exercise. And after President Donald Trump and other conservatives raised earlier claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire over the use of out-of-state licenses to vote, New Hampshire Public Radio matched many of the out-of-state license users to college towns.

    Kobach, who has a history of extremism, ties to white supremacists, and promotion of misinformation on immigration and voting issues, has previously made bizarre claims about voter fraud, voter intimidation, and undocumented immigrants voting. In one instance, he claimed that a dead man had voted in 2006 who was later found to in fact be alive, and he said in another interview that “We may never know” whether Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote in 2016.

    From the December 8 edition of SiriusXM Patriot's Breitbart News Daily:

    STEPHEN BANNON (HOST): Just real briefly, on your voter integrity commission, you had a stunning revelation up in New Hampshire. Can you just get people up to speed on where you stand right now, and maybe speak a minute or two about New Hampshire?

    KRIS KOBACH: Yeah, sure. So New Hampshire is one of those states that has same-day voter registration, which is something I think is a disaster because if you allow people to walk in on the day of election and say here I am, here's my name, take my word for it, and I'm not -- and also take my word for the fact that I just moved to your state. It leads to all kinds of problems. New Hampshire found on Election Day this past November that 5,300 people -- well actually, over 6,000 people, six and a half thousand -- used an out-of-state driver's license as their ID on that day. Then they went back and checked almost a year later in September, this past September, and found that 5,300 of those people still have not established New Hampshire residence. They had not gone ahead and gotten a New Hampshire license, they had registered any vehicle in New Hampshire. And it appeared that these individuals are probably not residing in New Hampshire. That's a really -- now it's theoretically possible that some of them might be out-of-state students who do not own a vehicle, and through some of the vagaries of New Hampshire law, it might qualify as a domicile in New Hampshire eligible to vote. But even if you say, let's knock off another 1,000. Let's say it's only 4,000 people who are from out of state and never actually moved to New Hampshire, yet voted there, that's extraordinary because in the Electoral College contest, New Hampshire went to Clinton by a 2,700 vote margin. The New Hampshire U.S. senator, [Maggie] Hassan, beat the Republican, [Kelly] Ayotte, by just over 1,000 votes. And so you're talking about the margin of victory being lower, less than the number of likely individuals who never actually moved to New Hampshire, but voted on Election Day using an out-of-state driver's license.

  • Breitbart follows Fox & Friends fearmongering about felon voting in Alabama’s special election

    The state passed a law earlier this year allowing some former felons to register to vote

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A week before the special election in Alabama to fill a vacancy in the Senate, Fox & Friends and Breitbart fearmongered about felon voting -- even attempting to portray it as a Democratic conspiracy -- despite the fact that the state’s Republican legislature passed and Republican governor signed the law allowing felons to register.

    In a December 3 piece, Breitbart wrote that “An organization partnered with a George Soros-financed group and led by a radical leftist who is the half-brother of the infamous controversial Rev. Al Sharpton has been diligently working over the past few weeks to register convicted felons across Alabama.” It isn’t until 12 paragraphs into the piece that Breitbart noted that earlier this year Alabama's Republican governor signed the law that restored voting rights to thousands of felons.

    Similarly, Fox & Friends was criticized after it ran multiple segments and teases on the November 30 edition of the program saying that Democrats are trying to get "felons registered to come out and vote" in the election. Only once did Fox host Jillian Mele acknowledge that “for decades, felons in Alabama were not allowed to vote,” but “the law was changed last year.” As the Washington Post noted, "Never mind that the felons' voting rights were restored by Republican lawmakers or that one of history's best-known conservative Supreme Court justices determined 32 years ago that bigotry had motivated Alabama's sweeping disenfranchisement. On “Fox & Friends,” the right of certain citizens to vote was presented as a nefarious “secret weapon” of Democrats."

    Right-wing media have a history of cheering for discriminatory laws that curtail voting rights and pushing myths about illegal voting.

  • Right-wing media's new voter fraud "proof" is even more asinine than usual

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing and fringe media outlets and figures, including Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Trump administration’s election integrity commission, are citing a Washington Times article about several thousand New Hampshire voters using out-of-state driver’s licenses to register to vote to bolster conservative claims of fraud and say that Republicans may have actually won the state. But journalists and election experts shot down these claims of voter fraud and explained that New Hampshire’s voter ID law permits out-of-state driver’s licenses to be used as proof of identity when voting, an option that college students often exercise.

  • Right-wing media is attempting to resuscitate an already misused survey to push debunked voter fraud claims

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Conservative media are pointing to a new report based on a recurring academic survey that was already misused to bolster debunked claims about non-citizen voting to claim that President Donald Trump is vindicated in stating that undocumented immigrants are committing voter fraud en masse.

    The conservative group Just Facts recently published a report based on Harvard data collected regularly to claim that 5.7 million undocumented immigrants may have voted in the 2008 presidential election. Right-wing media seized upon the skewed report to claim that “Trump was right.” Fox & Friends was promptly mocked on Twitter for lifting up the blatantly flawed study:

    In October 2016, PolitiFact published a piece explaining that the Harvard survey Just Facts relies on has been hotly challenged by experts as proof of voter fraud, and the authors who initially wrote about it themselves warned against using the data for future claims along those lines.

    Nonetheless, in November 2016, a man purporting to be the founder of voter fraud reporting app VoteStand alluded to the data to tweet the myth that 3 million noncitizens voted illegally, a claim that right-wing media blindly shared with their audiences. The data was quickly debunked at that time.

    Now, Just Facts has taken cues from this past stint and published its own study citing the same flawed data. And once again right-wing media are eating it up.

    Meanwhile, experts are responding to the study with reproof. HuffPost spoke to University of Massachusetts Amherst political science professor Brian Schaffner, who explained that the Just Facts study “makes the same error as the old study” by taking survey respondents at their word even when their claim that they voted illegally could not be corroborated. The article also quoted Eitan Hersh, a political science professor at Yale, who called the Just Facts methodology “a crazy extrapolation.”

    This is just the latest instance of conservative media pushing facts aside to bolster Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims. And as their defense becomes increasingly desperate, it is becoming obvious that their underlying agenda is to legitimize Republican efforts of voter suppression to help tilt future elections in the GOP’s favor.

  • Experts: Trump's New Voter Fraud Commission Could Be Used To Suppress Legal Votes

    "We should be focusing on ways to make it easier, not harder, to vote"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    President Donald Trump’s new commission on “election integrity” is drawing complaints from experts who continue to point out that no evidence exists for Trump’s ongoing claims of widespread voter fraud. 

    For years, conservative media have been overhyping evidence-free allegations of systemic voter fraud in the U.S., often as a pretense to argue for restrictive voter ID laws and other policies that inevitably suppress voting.

    Following his surprising Electoral College win, Trump sought to explain away his popular vote loss by claiming he would have gotten the majority of votes had “millions” of illegal votes not been tallied for Clinton, a conspiracy theory that had been popularized by Alex Jones’ Infowars website.

    This week, Trump signed an executive order forming a “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,” in part to examine "improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations, and fraudulent voting,” as well as voter suppression. The vice chair of the commission is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has repeatedly been criticized for his crusade over the issue.

    While the move was predictably cheered by the usual suspects in conservative media outlets, experts on the issue are sounding the alarm, saying the commission is a solution in search of a problem and that it could be used to suppress legal votes.  

    “In general I think the commission is unnecessary,” University of Kentucky College of Law professor Joshua Douglas said via email. “We already know there is not much fraud in the system, and certainly not to the level that Trump has suggested. And having Mike Pence and Kris Kobach lead it means it will have no credibility whatsoever.”

    He added, “Trump will no doubt try to use this commission to support further voter suppression measures. Instead we should be focusing on ways to make it easier, not harder, to vote.”

    Lorraine Minnite, a Rutgers University professor and author of the 2010 book The Myth of Voter Fraud, said, “I think they want to try to create whatever kind of record they think they can create for a justification to propose amendments to tighten up and require nationwide what Kansas requires with proof of citizenship. And who knows what else they would dream up to make it hard to vote.”

    She continued, “It is a pattern we have seen more flagrantly over the past 15 years to promote the idea that voter fraud is rampant in America. There are always some problems with a federal election, but there is just no evidence that voter fraud is rampant.”

    Bill Schneider, a former CNN senior political analyst and current professor of public policy at George Mason University, said there “is just no evidence” to support claims of widespread voter fraud.

    “What’s happening here is that Trump has an obsession,” Schneider said. “He can’t get over the fact that Hillary Clinton won a plurality. He wants to destroy that notion and establish the fact that he is the legitimate winner. He is taking every step he can to try to demonstrate that notion.”

    Michael McDonald, director of the U.S. Election Project at the University of Florida -- who has been involved in the ACLU’s legal action against Kobach – offered skepticism of the commission’s work.

    “I’m skeptical given Trump’s recent statements, his firing of Comey,” McDonald said. “The integrity of this commission itself will be suspect because it likely won’t have the ability to look independently, or to look at Trump’s claims that there were 3 to 5 million illegal votes.”

    The American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed several legal challenges in Kansas targeting Kobach’s efforts to limit voting rights and prosecute alleged fraudulent voters, said it has filed a Freedom of Information Act request "seeking information that the Trump administration is using as the basis for its voter fraud claims."

    “President Trump is attempting to spread his own fake news about election integrity,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement about the commission. “Such claims have been widely debunked, but he is still trying to push his false reality on the American public. It is telling that the president’s choice to co-lead the commission is none other than Kris Kobach, one of the worst offenders of voter suppression in the nation today. If the Trump administration really cares about election integrity, it will divulge its supposed evidence before embarking on this commission boondoggle.”

  • Fake News Purveyors Echo Trump’s Bogus Claims Of Voter Fraud

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Following President Donald Trump’s vow to launch a federal investigation into his debunked claim that there was massive voter fraud in the 2016 election, numerous websites that Media Matters has identified as purveyors of fake news cheered on Trump’s call and falsely claimed there is massive voter fraud in the United States, an argument that has been repeatedly debunked. Nearly all of these websites are supported, in part, by revenue from Google’s advertising service.