Trump claims widespread voter fraud, seems unclear on details

During a question and answer session at a rally last night in New Hampshire, Donald Trump claimed that the American electoral system has been broken by hordes of people who are casting piles of fraudulent votes, skewing elections.

As he said, quoted by the Washington Post, “This voting system is out of control. You have people, in my opinion, that are voting many, many times. They don’t want security, they don’t want cards.”

At least he added the “in my opinion” qualifier to his claim, because the number of documented cases of that kind of voter fraud are statistically negligible. So I guess he can have his opinion, and his opinion can be wrong. By Trump’s standards, that’s quite a concession.

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

Donald Trump, screenshot via 60 Minutes

By itself, it isn’t all that interesting that Trump is alleging widespread voter fraud in American elections. A large subset of his core voters have sincerely-held religious beliefs that there is a widespread Democratic conspiracy to funnel undocumented immigrants and felons to the polls on Election Day, without which Barack Obama would never have been “elected” president. However, the specific nature of the voter fraud Trump is alleging is what makes his claim interesting.

That’s because the voter ID laws states have passed are designed to prevent voter impersonation fraud, keeping people who are ineligible to vote (undocumented immigrants, felons, minors, etc.) from showing up and casting ballots under the names of people who are listed as eligible. Taking a step beyond the politicians touting these laws, however, Trump is claiming that the problem is actually duplicate voting, with people who may or may not be eligible to vote once showing up to vote a second, third or fourth time. Voter impersonation fraud can fall under that umbrella — theoretically, if you can pull off voter impersonation fraud once, you can pull it off twice — but Trump seems to be claiming that American elections look like a caricature of the 19th Century.

Perhaps something like this:

In any case, Trump missed the traditional GOP talking point and corresponding policy solution by just enough to make folks scratch their heads.

To be clear, I’m pretty sure Trump doesn’t understand or care about the difference between voter impersonation fraud and multiple voting. I’d be surprised if the candidate who thinks he can force businesses to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” understands that ballot access is a state-level issue, so he can’t pass nationwide voter ID to fix whatever problem he thinks exists. And I’m sure that the Trump fans at last night’s rally don’t care about those details, either. All this is to say that Trump is, as he does with every issue, shooting from the hip in the general direction of where he thinks the Rush Limbaugh Caucus wants him to land.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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