President Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes, the largest negative margin for anyone elected president in the modern era. But on Monday, during his first official meeting with congressional leaders, Mr. Trump insisted that he actually won the popular vote — once you subtract the three million to five million illegally cast ballots, all of which he says, were cast “for the other side.” Now he is calling for a major federal investigation into election fraud that, according to the White House press secretary, will focus on “urban areas” in “big states” that Mr. Trump lost, like California and New York. Here are the (non-alternative) facts: There were more than 135 million ballots cast in November. A careful review by The Washington Post documented a grand total of just four cases of voter fraud nationwide — including an Iowa woman who voted twice for Mr. Trump. And during the recount litigation in Michigan, the president’s own legal team told a court that “all available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.” But don’t take it from them. Just ask yourself if this story seems plausible: Sophisticated cheats committed widespread election fraud to the tune of five million votes and vanished without a trace. But they forgot to steal 80,000 votes in three states (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) that would have been decisive for Hillary Clinton. It’s as if the thieves from “Ocean’s Eleven” broke into Fort Knox, left behind the gold bars and took a stamp collection.
So why would the president make this easily debunked claim that there was widespread voter fraud?
First, he faces a legitimacy problem. I’m not talking about rigged or hacked voting machines. The Rust Belt recounts show only that our voting systems score high on integrity. Sure, voting machines can always use improvements, and meltdowns have happened (see Florida, 2000). But, despite unsubstantiated concerns raised by Jill Stein and others, there is no evidence of large-scale fraud or miscounting — certainly nothing that could tip multiple states by tens of thousands of votes. The truth is that Mr. Trump won critical battleground states and the Electoral College with 304 votes. And that’s why he’s the president.
The Electoral College is the law of the land, but opinion polls over the last 15 years indicate that most Americans — about 60 percent — agree that it should be scrapped in favor of the popular vote. (The number of Americans in favor of keeping the Electoral College, however, did jump to about 47 percent shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory.)