President Donald Trump Wednesday again tried to justify his 2.9 million popular vote loss in November by claiming that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast, without providing a single piece of evidence or data to support that claim.
“You have people that are registered that are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states,” he told David Muir on ABC. “Of those votes cast, none of ‘em came to me. None of ‘em came to me.”
Pam Karlan, a Professor at Stanford who’s served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, said she wants to see the evidence proving 3 million dead people, double-voters and illegal immigrants who risked being deported simply to vote in solidly blue states like California and New York. (That’s where White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said a possible investigation into voter fraud in the election Trump won would be focused, anyway.)
Because she doesn’t believe Trump’s evidence, if it exists, is evidence at all.
“It’s gonna be a bunch of lies, damn lies and statistics,” she told The Daily Beast. “If Trump had won the election by 5 million votes, he wouldn’t be saying there’s fraud at all.”
Karlan has seen the same talking points from ballot box truthers for years—but this is the first time one has been in the White House. They all rely on the same basic, but easily disprovable talking points: There are dead people on the voter rolls, and sometimes people who move aren’t taken off voter rolls in other states, theoretically allowing them to vote twice.
But there’s a big problem with that theory: There’s no proof the dead people still accidentally on voter rolls are actually voting. They’re just on the rolls.
And just because someone moved from one state to another during an election year doesn’t mean they risked committing a felony to vote twice.
“You can easily find somebody on the rolls in two states. In a nation like the U.S., which has a mobile population, there will be people on multiple voter rolls. But that doesn’t mean they voted in two states,” said Karlan, a leading scholar on voting rights and U.S. elections. “You’d have to be a crazy person with a high capacity for risking getting caught and sent to jail to go and vote in two separate places.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday, board member of the conservative vote monitoring group True The Vote Gregg Phillips said that this was a large part of his group’s methodology—identifying what he called “dually registered” voters and registrations “associated with dead people.” In a November tweet, he estimated 3 million of those people voted in November—a claim that made it onto InfoWars, The Drudge Report, and into viral conservative talking points like Trump’s exact same estimate this past week.
He has yet to release any data or evidence to back up his claims, nor provide proof that millions of “dually registered” or “associated with dead people” voters actually voted in 2016.
Karlan says voter fraud that exists is “almost always at the wholesale level, not retail.”
“There have been places in the country where absentee ballot fraud or ballot box stuffing or losing the ballots happened. But they’re not very frequent,” she said.
After all, if every single person who is registered in more than one state is now guilty of voter fraud, count in the following four votes from these two people: Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon (New York and Florida), and Tiffany Trump, the president’s daughter (New York and Pennsylvania).
“They almost never involve just some guy getting up in the morning and saying, ‘Even though I’m not in this country with documentation, I’m going to show up where there are government officials and try to commit a crime,’” said Karlan.
“I’ve never heard, any of the people who believe this, why they believe these people who are trying to avoid scrutiny by the government would stick their necks out like that?”
The National Association of Secretaries of State, an organization made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who oversee elections (even the presidential election is commissioned at the state level), put out a statement saying they are “not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump.”
Democratic Senators like Patrick Leahy called Trump’s claims “a conspiracy theory.” Republican Senator John McCain said he saw “no evidence of illegal voting.” Senate GOP Conference Chairman said he “hadn’t seen evidence to that effect,” either.
By the end of Wednesday night, New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush reported that Trump might be going on more of an anecdote than data or evidence. Three people present at Trump’s dinner with Congressmen on Monday say the president said that German golfer Bernard Langer had told him that he was disallowed from voting in Florida while “voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote” were given provisional ballots. Trump then rattled off potential Latin American home countries of those voters.
Langer, for what it’s worth, is not an American citizen, and is not legally allowed to vote. Still, that story is the only evidence Trump has provided so far—and it may be apocryphal.
“It’s more likely we’re gonna have problems at Area 51 than serious vote fraud by individuals—and certainly not millions of them,” said Karlan.