Thanks to comments and tweets by Donald Trump and the apparent work of Russia, the news is full of allegations that next month’s vote will be stolen, “rigged,” or hacked. Most of this talk isunsubstantiated or greatly exaggerated. Here are four ways that the 2016 election won’t be stolen and one way that responses to exaggerated fears of electoral fraud could disenfranchise voters.
Flawed findings on non-citizen voting: Mr. Trump has pointed to a study arguing that non-citizen voting is a big problem and could have cost John McCain the state of North Carolina in the 2008 presidential election. Politifact rated Mr. Trump’s allegation of massive voter fraud a “pants on fire” claim, noting that this study “has been criticized by election experts for using an unreliable database of Internet respondents.” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has been given prosecutorial powers to go after this fraud, has found virtually none. The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit concluded last month than only a “tiny fraction” of voters are non-citizens and that there is no evidence it is a serious problem.
The myth of zombie voters: Mr. Trump has also pointed to a 2012 Pew study showing that more than 1.8 million deceased voters are still on voting rolls. It’s absolutely true that our voting rolls are a mess and need to be cleaned up. But there’s no good evidence that people are impersonating dead people and voting for them on a scale to swing an election. In 2012, for example, there were reports of dead people voting in South Carolina. But follow-up investigations showed that there was almost no such activity.
Russian hacking and vote totals: The U.S. government has been clear that Russia is behind the attacks on U.S. election systems, such as going after the voter registration databases of Illinois and Arizona. There does not appear to be evidence of hackers removing voters from the rolls or adding fake voters to the rolls. More important for those worried about hacking and voting fraud, I am aware of no vote-counting systems used by states that are connected to the Internet, and election officials are taking steps to ensure there is no corruption of voting equipment. Most, but not all, votes are cast using ballots with a paper trail, which could be recounted in the event of concerns over hacking or an error in audits. I looked last week at the evidence that the Russian hacksare more about delegitimizing the U.S. election than changing its results.