Obviously we all know that Trump has spent the last year disputing the results of the 2020 election, wrongly insisting that it was stolen from him. But, you may not remember that Trump established a group — the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — early in his presidency aimed at flushing out the allegedly myriad examples of fraud in voting.
The problem for Trump — then and now: There is simply no evidence of any widespread election fraud in American elections. It just isn’t a thing.
Two recent examples make the point.
1. In Texas, an audit of the 2020 vote in the four most populous counties in the state produced a whole lot of nothing. As the Texas Tribune noted: “According to the state’s review of the counties’ partial manual counts, which they are already required to conduct under state law, there were few differences between electronic and manual ballot tallies — and counties were able to justify those inconsistencies.” That the initial phase of the report was released on New Year’s Eve tells you how much attention the Republicans who pushed for the audit wanted these initial findings to garner.
2. In Georgia, election investigators found 4 ballots that had been cast by people who were deceased — out of almost 5 million total votes cast. Those four dead votes comprise .00008% of the total votes cast in Georgia in 2020. And, while no dead people should be allowed to vote, the Georgia investigation revealed that in all four cases a relative of the deceased person had cast the vote, meaning that this was no sort of coordinated effort. And those four votes are a far cry from the 5,000 dead people that Trump claimed had voted illegally in Georgia during a phone call after the election with the state’s top election official.
These two latest findings are consistent with scads of other research done over the years into election fraud.
One study by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, tracking US elections from 2000 to 2014 in search of voter fraud — or, as he put it, “specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls” — found 31 such instances out of more than a billion votes cast. Thirty-one! A five-year study on voter fraud commissioned by the George W. Bush administration reached that same conclusion back in 2007. The New York Times wrote at the time: “The Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections.” And there’s lots more!
The basic point is this: Yes, on occasion dead people cast a vote. And, yes, some people try (and succeed) at casting ballots in two different states. But, there is ZERO evidence that these rule-breakers are doing so in any sort of coordinated way. And, the sheer paucity of people who even attempt voter fraud is so small (as compared to the overall number of ballots cast in a given state or district) as to make the Trumpian obsession with it laughable.
Of course, Trump is so far down the election conspiracy rabbit hole that the latest developments in Texas and Georgia won’t sway his views one bit. When you believe in a conspiracy theory, you can rationalize anything and everything as being part of that conspiracy — no matter how outlandish it looks in the light of day.
The scarier thing for me is not that Trump will continue to push his election conspiracies, but rather that a majority of Republicans appear willing to go along with this farce despite all available evidence pointing to the fact that the 2020 election was both free and fair. That sort of willful ignorance is hugely damaging to our democracy and makes me worry about where we are headed in 2024.