An exploration of Donald Trump’s allegations of massive voter fraud in the 2016 General Election

An academic paper from 2017:

* As Republican candidate for president and later 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump has claimed repeatedly and vociferously that the 2016 General Election was tainted by massive voter fraud. Here we use aggregate election statistics to study Trump’s claims and focus on non-citizen populations across the country, state-specific allegations directed at California, New Hampshire, and Virginia, and the timing of election results. Consistent with existing literature, we do not uncover any evidence supportive of Trump’s assertions about systematic voter fraud in 2016. Our results imply neither that there was no fraud at all in the 2016 General Election nor that this election’s administration was error-free. They do strongly suggest, however, that the expansive voter fraud concerns espoused by Donald Trump and those allied with him are not grounded in any observable features of the 2016 election.

* Given the tenor of the Clinton-Trump presidential contest at the time of the Republican and Democratic party conventions, we
anticipated post-election fraud allegations that centered on illegal voters, in particular non-citizens. To prepare ourselves to scrutinize such allegations, we assembled a county-level dataset that included historical election returns, demographics, and economic indicators. We also contracted with the Associated Press so that we would be able to access their national database on county presidential election returns. Our plan was to begin work on fraud allegations on Election Day evening (November 8, 2016), and we were prepared for an intense post-election week or two.

* As Goel et al. (2016) summarize, there are three general classes of voter fraud: impersonation (a voter casts a ballot while claiming to be someone else), double-voting (an individual votes more than once), and ineligible voting (an individual who is not supposed to have access to the franchise in a particular location casts a ballot). A voter casting a ballot out of her jurisdiction is an example of the third type of fraud; this form of fraud would also characterize a citizen ex-felon, who has lost the right to vote due to a state law restricting ex-felon voting rights (Manza and Uggen, 2006), improperly casting a ballot.

Efforts to uncover evidence of widespread voter fraud in American elections have come up empty. Surveys like Levitt (2007) and Minnite (2010) find only a small number of cases of verified voter fraud. Focusing on double-voting and using a database of 129
million individuals records, Goel et al. (2016) conclude that the maximum double-voting rate is approximate 0.02 percent and that “many, if not all, of [such] double votes could be a result of measurement error in turnout records” (p. 30). Christensen and Schultz (2014) conclude that, “if [voter fraud] occurs, [it] is an isolated and rare occurrence in modern U.S. elections” (p. 313).

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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