In recent days, Donald Trump has been aggressively pushing the idea that the election is about to be stolen from him through voter fraud and dirty tricks. The Republican candidate, though, has not been a paragon of clarity when it comes to how the election is being rigged against him—Monday morning he tweeted that Hillary Clinton allegedly being fed questions before a Democratic primary debate was a kind of “voter fraud!” Here’s what we know, though, about what he’s said and why his claims that the election is being stolen have no basis whatsoever in reality. When he’s been most specific, Trump has said that voters in “certain areas”—which his surrogate Rudy Giuliani confirmed to CNN’s Jake Tapper means inner cities where there are large numbers of people of color—would be voting five, 10, or even 15 times in states such as Pennsylvania. Trump has urged his almost entirely white supporters not only to watch their own polling stations, but to go to other polling stations looking for fraud in these areas made up mostly of black and Hispanic voters.
To begin with, this idea of massive Democratic fraud is not new—Slate readers may remember my 2007 piece on the “fraudulent fraud squad” of Republican Party hucksters pushing these claims. It has happened again since then.
The truth is, though, that not only does zero evidence exist that this sort of fraud has taken place on any regular basis, but multiple voting simply cannot happen in any practical sense on a scale to influence a presidential election. To vote five, 10, or 15 times one would have to either register five, 10, or 15 times in different jurisdictions or with false names or go five, 10, or 15 times to polling places claiming to be someone else whose name is on the voter rolls, in the hopes that this person has not already voted and you would not get caught. And to do this on a scale for a presidential election, in a place such as Pennsylvania with millions of voters, you would need to pay tens of thousands of people, all without any way of verifying how they voted. What a stupid way to try to steal an election! That’s why in preparing my 2012 book, The Voting Wars, I could not find a single instance anywhere in the U.S. from the 1980s onward where massive impersonation fraud was used to try to steal an election.