Standard disclaimer: See sidebar. These are my views, not those of my former employer, for whom I am in no way authorized to speak. I am writing from my experience working for an elections division, a worker bee who got to see up close and personal how elections happen, and who processed a lot of provisional ballots.
I thought that since he had won the White House, Donald Trump would leave this whole “voter fraud” business alone. Clearly, I was wrong. In refusing to let sleeping conspiracies lie, Trump shows himself to have even less judgment than George W. Bush, who, once he had the Supreme Court hand him the Presidency, let the matter slide, calling out for genuine unity (not this shut the hell up and go away crap).
New wrinkles are being proposed all the time. (The latest I heard was that busloads of people were hauled into New Hampshire from Massachusetts, thus making Trump’s victory there narrower than it should have been and also depriving poor, poor Kelly Ayotte of her Senate seat.) And, of course, there are all the allegations that undocumented immigrants illegally voted in California.
That last is easy to rebut: no one living more or less underground is going to put their name on a piece of paper for the government when they don’t have to. Police say that sometimes undocumented immigrants are afraid to report being victims of crimes, for fear of being reported to ICE. They sure as hell are not going to register to vote.
Which leaves two areas of investigation: registration and actual voting. No evidence exists of fraud for either one.
To take registration first: if we discount the absurd narrative that millions of undocumented immigrants registered and voted, the pool of people that could have registered illegally would be under-eighteen year olds, and people convicted of a felony, (and in California) who are in prison or on probation. (Felons don’t regain the right vote ever in several Deep South red states, but Trump et. al. have never claimed voter fraud in those states.) People on probation are not a big enough pool to sway a statewide election, and those in prison won’t have the opportunity. As far as the youngsters go, it’s hard enough to get them to register and vote when they do hit eighteen. Only a handful are going to try before them, and they get caught, and their registration is put on hold until their eighteenth birthday. (People do register in multiple counties, sometimes (like Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner) but, as understand the law (I might be wrong), merely being registered in more than one place is not illegal as long as you do not vote in more than one place. People have been prosecuted for the latter.) I suppose that there might be some strange situation whereby masses of people could illegally register, but I fail to see how. Certainly I have not seen anyone show any evidence at all that this is the case.
Which leaves the stupid “people voting more than once” or “people voting in another state” scenarios, which seem to be the theories those idiots (or liars, take your pick) in the White House favor. And, based on my personal experience, I feel more than comfortable stating that these theories are utterly ridiculous.
People who are not on the voter rolls, for whatever reason, will not be allowed to cast a regular ballot. Period. They will have to cast a provisional ballot. Those provisional ballots are checked against ballots already cast, both those from other precincts and those vote-by-mail ballots that have been sent in. The signature is checked against the signature on file for the voter. Those provisional ballots are checked to see if the voter is registered, has moved out of the county (or state), if the voter is on probation, or in one case last year, dead.*
People voting from out of county — e.g., the Massachusetts scenario? Can’t happen. The ballots are invalidated.
People voting ten times? Can’t happen. The extra ballots are invalidated.
Somebody voting for someone else? Not unless they forge that person’s signature. If the signatures don’t match, the ballot is invalidated.
Non-citizens (which would include green-card holders) voting even though they’re not registered? Can’t happen. Ballots cast by people who are not registered are invalidated.
True, I only have first-hand experience of California elections. But given that Trump and his minions have focused most of their weird ire on my state**, I feel comfortable stating that there was very, very little or no voter fraud in California. I strongly suspect that other states have similar regimens in place to prevent fraud. We take our jobs as defenders of democracy (okay, so I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek) very seriously.
I had discussions after the California primary with the occasional member of the lunatic fringe on the left (usually Bernie Bros) who insisted that the provisionals were simply thrown out. (No, no, no, no, and once again no. Valid provisionals are counted the same as other ballots.) This just seems odd now, to have to repeatedly hear about fraud that I know for a fact would not have happened.
I don’t just get frustrated and angry about these voter fraud conspiracy theories. I worry about the damage it will do to our democracy; if people do not trust in the election process, how can they believe their vote counts? Between apathy and cynicism and the effect of Citizen’s United, our system is already screwed six ways to Sunday, and it seems that voter participation rates keep dropping all the time. Trump and his henchmen (and woman — I’m looking at you, Kellyanne Conway) and their ridiculous and dangerous lust for vindication can make things even worse.
Trump won the White House. I wish he would just let this go.
*As I recall, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity; a man was removed from the voter rolls accidentally even though it was his father who had died.
**More evidence of bizarreness: Trump’s repeated claim that all those illegal votes had been cast for Hillary. The man’s not stupid; does he think his followers are?