In today’s surreal political landscape, the president claims that 3-5 million people voted illegally in November and has called for an investigation, but offers no credible evidence for his claims. Just last month, President Donald Trump asserted that thousands of people were bused into New Hampshire from liberal-leaning Massachusetts to vote illegally on Election Day – again with no proof. Many Americans buy the president’s phony storyline. A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll showed 43 percent of registered voters believe voter fraud is somewhat common or very common in a typical presidential election. Voter fraud – voting by the deceased, voting by noncitizens, and voting more than once –is a serious offense. But election officials and leading voting experts find no evidence of significant voter fraud in U.S. elections, including in 2016.
In a comprehensive study by Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School, only 31 instances of voter fraud were found in more than 1 billion votes cast in U.S. elections between 2000 and 2014. Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office is examining only 423 of the 23 million total votes cast in California’s 2016 primary and general elections, the nonpartisan journalism nonprofit CALmatters reported. And not one of these cases involves allegations of voting by an undocumented immigrant.
Our electoral system has checks, counterchecks and paper trails to prevent voter impersonation and voting more than one time in an election. As for voting by non-citizens, there is little evidence for it, in part because there is no real incentive for it.
Non-citizens who vote in a U.S. election would face a felony, derailing of their efforts to become citizens, and deportation. Most undocumented individuals are unlikely to try to vote, since voting invites contact with government officials. The payoff just isn’t there. And yet Trump’s conspiracy theories are shaping public opinion, generating worries about the integrity of our political process. This climate of doubt is providing legislators in some states with a pretext to introduce more restrictive voting practices.