White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller argued Sunday that President Trump was the victim of voter fraud in the election. “Voter fraud,” Miller insisted, “is a serious problem in this country.” This statement is untrue. He also said that “the White House has provided enormous evidence” of this fraud. This is also untrue. The president himself has repeatedly made unsubstantiated claims, from last week’s allegation that then-Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost her race in New Hampshire because thousands of voters were bused in from Massachusetts to his fact-free insistence that he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes because of 3 million to 5 million votes cast by “illegals.” And when he called for a “major investigation,” he was hardly opaque about his aims, with his press secretary, Sean Spicer, saying that the probe would be focused on “urban areas,” the same areas Trump told his supporters to “watch” on Election Day. Let’s dispense with the easy part. This issue has been studied, and every credible academic review has concluded that widespread voter fraud does not happen in this country. There are isolated incidents, such as the Iowa woman accused of voting twice for Trump. But there is no evidence that millions, thousands or even hundreds of instances of in-person voter fraud occur in the United States. One of the most reliable studies found only 31 instances of fraud in more than 1 billion votes cast over nearly 15 years. A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.
Although “voter fraud” has long been on the list of myths perpetuated by state-level Republican leaders to justify onerous voter ID laws, even Republican members of Congress have refused to endorse the president’s views about widespread voter fraud. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that no federal dollars should be used to support the president’s search for voter fraud. Ayotte rejected Trump’s account of her defeat.
Thus, the president and his team’s peculiar repetition of claims about voter fraud must be recognized for what it is: They are laying the groundwork for forthcoming efforts. We should prepare for the president to issue a sweeping executive order requiring a nationwide investigation of alleged voter fraud. The justification for it will be as unmoored from facts, as was the basis for the seven Muslim-majority countries selected for the president’s travel ban. And the results will be just as, if not more, pernicious.