According to the defiant and erratic political universe of Donald Trump, the nearly 3 million more popular votes Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received over the Republican were cast by illegal and ineligible voters.
Cornell William Brooks, along with other voting advocacy groups are troubled about the future of minority and youth voters. (Courtesy photo)
“I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and,” Trump posted on Twitter earlier last week as he pushed the still unsubstantiated claim that anywhere from 3 to 5 million ballots cast in the 2016 election were fraudulent, “Even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!”
As the new president enters his second week with an unprecedented kick-off flurry of ambitious, reverse-Obama executive orders, voting rights advocates worry key voter protections will be next on the chopping block. The phenomenon of voter fraud has been roundly debunked as a conspiracy theory. Yet, just the hint of a sitting president entertaining a full-scale federal investigation into it could mean grave consequences for the basic voting rights of many Americans, especially those who are Black, Brown and under the age of 35.
Still, the White House is pressing ahead with a concerted look into voter fraud during the 2016 election. The threat of such an effort unnerves civil rights activists as they await the eventual Senate confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a longtime critic of voting rights known famously for pushing voter fraud narratives and cases.
“This notion of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election, or any other American election cycle for that matter, is false and dangerous,” said NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks in a lengthy statement blasting the president’s plan.
“In stark contrast to the myth of widespread voter fraud is the proven reality of voter suppression,” Brooks added.
Brooks and others point to exhaustive research on the topic of voter fraud, despite years of attempts by conservative conspiracy theorists and think tanks to drum up an election integrity crisis. A 2007 report from the independent, non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University concluded that the “few recorded examples in which noncitizens have apparently registered or voted” were accidental. Later on, the Carnegie Corporation and Knight Foundation teamed up to fund investigative journalist team News 21, which discovered just 56 cases of non-citizen voting during an 11-year period between 2000 and 2011.
Trump’s allegations are largely based on questionable research conducted by self-dubbed voter fraud activist Greg Phillips, a former Alabama Republican Party finance chair Trump has referenced by name in public tweets about election integrity. Riding the hashtag #unrigged, Phillips, the founder of voting fraud app VoteStand, announced shortly after the election that he would partner with another once-fringed advocacy organization known as TrueVote.
And proponents of the voter fraud narrative, like Phillips, repeatedly point to a long debunked 2014 Harvard study that claimed 6.4 percent of “non-citizens” voted in the 2008 presidential election, as well as more than 2 percent during the 2010 Congressional midterms (which Republicans, ironically, dominated).
“Completed analysis of database of 180 million voter registrations,” tweeted Phillips a week after the election in November. “Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million. Consulting legal team.”
Voter fraud initiatives could also refresh voter ID efforts in key states. This is potentially problematic for many seniors, particularly elderly Black seniors who are considered the most reliable voting age demographic to turnout during election cycles, and Millennials. “And yet, all my Secretary of State colleagues throughout the country tell me the same thing: voter fraud is a myth,” Portland State University’s Phil Keisling, who is also a former Oregon Secretary of State, told the AFRO. Keisling, who oversaw a revealing study into low voter turnout patterns during mayoral elections called Who Votes for Mayor, foresees those trends getting much worse under an aggressive Trump-Pence anti-voter fraud regime. Still Keisling is hopeful “local and state elected officials can push back,” especially when their ever tightening budgets are burdened by the costs of dramatic changes to electoral processes.