President-elect Donald Trump’s team strove Monday to back up his claim of vote fraud, though they produced no evidence and two reports they did cite were from years ago and did not point to fraud even then.
Trump set off the brouhaha by charging Sunday that millions of people had voted illegally and deprived him of a popular-vote victory, and also that there was unspecified vote fraud in three states he lost: California, New Hampshire and Virginia.
“I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump said in one tweet.
As independent fact-checkers said there was no evidence of either charge, Trump spokesman Jason Miller referred to two reports in the past.
“So all these are studies and examples of where there have been issues of both voter fraud and illegal immigrants voting,” Miller told reporters.
One was a Washington Post story from 2014 about whether voting by noncitizens could decide control of the Senate. But those results were subsequently challenged.
The other was a Pew Charitable Trust report from 2012 that found that state voter registration lists were not up-to-date, largely because of poor record keeping. It found that 2.75 million people at that time were registered in more than one state, that 1.8 million names on state voter registrations were for dead people and that 1 out of every 8 voter registrations was either invalid or “significantly inaccurate.”
But the primary author of the Pew study said fraud was not a factor.
“They are misinterpreting” with regard to any finding of fraud, said David Becker, who at the time was the director of Pew’s elections program. “I oversaw the entire report, start to finish. There was not a finding of fraud whatsoever.”
Becker, now the executive director for the Center for Election Innovation and Research, said the report looked into inefficiencies of the voter registration system that led to out-of-date records remaining on the lists.
“These were not results from fraud or any intentional act,” he said, but the result of not “keeping up with people as they move and some cases when they die.”
Myrna Perez, director of voting rights and elections project at Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of law, said that numbers like 2.75 million people being registered to vote in two states might sound like fraud. But it doesn’t mean people are voting in two states. It just means they moved between elections and haven’t changed, or been notified to change, their former registrations.
“There has been no evidence produced to substantiate a claim like that,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday before referring reporters to the Trump transition team.
Cristóbal Alex, the president of Latino Victory Fund, which works to have Latinos reflected at every level of government, said the allegations are “outright false and have been debunked many times.”
“The president-elect of the United States should not be casting doubts or spreading lies about the election results, but then again this isn’t the first time that Trump cries wolf on voter fraud,” he said.
Current and former officials in the three states Trump mentioned also disputed his claims.
“It appears Mr. Trump is troubled by the fact that a growing majority of Americans did not vote for him,” tweeted Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, who is a Democrat.
Miller declined to comment about whether the Justice Department will investigate the situation when Trump is president. “But I do think it is an issue of concern,” he said.
Meanwhile, a recount of Wisconsin’s ballots initiated by Green Party candidate Jill Stein is underway, though analysts do not expect it to reverse the result.
Stein also filed for a recount in more than 100 of Pennsylvania’s 9,100 precincts Monday. She pledged to do the same in Michigan, a third state where only a small margin of votes separates Trump and Clinton.
Stein has argued that some voting machines had deficiencies and ballots need to be recounted by hand.
“We must recount the votes so we can build trust in our election system,” Stein said. “We need to verify the vote in this and every election so that Americans of all parties can be sure we have a fair, secure and accurate voting system.”
The Hillary Clinton campaign announced over the weekend that it would join Stein in the Wisconsin recount.
“We are getting attacked for participating in a recount that we didn’t ask for by the man who won election but thinks there was massive fraud,” Clinton lawyer Marc Elias tweeted Sunday.