Voter fraud simply isn't a serious problem

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President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud had been largely debunked long ago. But if there were any lingering doubts, they should now be put to rest.

For years, Benjamin Ginsberg has been a go-to Republican election lawyer. By all accounts, he's well respected on both sides. But Democrats certainly considered him a fierce competitor who was willing to push hard for his party even when, as they saw it, that meant disenfranchising legitimate voters. As political scientist Michael McDonald says, Ginsberg "would know best if widespread vote fraud existed since he led Republican Party efforts to find it for decades."

So it's a pretty big deal that the recently retired Ginsberg has a new op-ed out shooting down Trump's claims and his "inflammatory language." Here's what he says (and what at least one other prominent Republican election lawyer has already endorsed):

Each Election Day since 1984, I've been in precincts looking for voting violations, or in Washington helping run the nationwide GOP Election Day operations, overseeing the thousands of Republican lawyers and operatives each election on alert for voting fraud. In every election, Republicans have been in polling places and vote tabulation centers. Republican lawyers in every state have been able to examine mail-in/absentee ballot programs.

[...]

The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there's no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged. Absentee ballots use the same process as mail-in ballots — different states use different labels for the same process.

Read the whole thing.

So we can add the nation's top Republican election lawyer to the broad consensus among academics, election administrators, journalists who cover the topic, and others who have looked at it seriously that illegal voting isn't a widespread problem. In fact, it's extremely rare. It's not a serious problem overall, and it's not a serious problem in absentee voting. Trump's claim that all-mail states are particularly plagued with misconduct isn't true, and to the extent that cases of fraud have occurred, both parties have been guilty. While both parties will and should continue to keep their eyes open, elections in the U.S. are in fact mostly on the level and administered fairly.

Why Trump continues with this particular stream of falsehoods isn't clear. He may hope to sway the election by undermining voter confidence in the process, but it's also possible that he's just setting up an excuse in case he loses — or even that he simply is prone to believing conspiracy theories and exaggerating them in the retelling. Perhaps it's a little of each. In any event, it's corrosive to the republic and to the Constitution that he's supposed to defend. 

1. An important new report from Alexander C. Furnas and Timothy M. LaPira on the urgent need to increase pay for congressional staff.

2. A team of researchers at the Monkey Cage on public opinion and the Electoral College.

3. Dan Drezner on the pandemic and international politics.

4. Adam Serwer on the possibility of an emerging anti-racist majority.

5. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Noah Smith on the continuing need for economic relief and stimulus.

6. Perry Bacon Jr. on some Trump voters who might get overlooked.

7. Ed Kilgore on the possibility of a contested election.

8. And Liz Mair on internal polls. What I'd say is that normal campaigns don't simply make up numbers and release them. But … well, for one thing, it's always possible to massage polling numbers more or less legitimately (such as raising or lowering a threshold for what counts as a likely voter). For another, an internal poll that gets released might be one of a series of surveys, and the only one that happened through normal random movement to look good for their candidate. Normal campaigns don't make up numbers because they care about their reputations, so if there's a campaign that doesn't seem to care if it gets caught in blatant lies, that condition might not apply. Just saying.

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