Any hope that the prospect of occupying the White House would dampen Donald Trump’s fondness for conspiracist crap seems to have been misplaced. Likewise the hope that he would prove gracious in victory. After a brief burst of magnanimity on election night, he has reverted to form. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide,” he bragged on Twitter yesterday, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Trump says any recount of votes in the presidential election is “a scam,” since it will not affect the outcome. Yet he also claims “millions of people” voted illegally. Can both propositions be true? Only if you assume, as Trump apparently does, that millions of illegal voters 1) exist and 2) favor Hillary Clinton.
A couple of weeks ago, Politifact found no evidence to back up reports by websites such as InfoWars, Milo, The New American, and Freedom Daily that more than 3 million votes were cast by noncitizens in this month’s election. The source of that claim, Republican activist Gregg Phillips, said it was based on an “analysis of [a] database of 180 million voter registrations,” but he declined to say where the information came from or how he had analyzed it.
Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, told Politifact “the idea that 3 million noncitizens could have illegally voted in our elections without being detected is obscenely ludicrous.” Here is what Hasen told Politico about Trump’s claim that “millions of people” voted illegally:
There’s no reason to believe this is true. The level of fraud in US elections is quite low….We’re talking claims in the dozens. We’re not talking voting in the millions, or the thousands, or even the hundreds.
Politifact‘s Allison Graves noted that claims about widespread voting by noncitizens got a boost from a 2014 study estimating that 6.4 percent of noncitizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent voted in 2010. But the survey data on which that study was based were flawed because some respondents accidentally gave the wrong answer to a question about their citizenship. Three researchers who reinterviewed participants in the survey found that a small percentage changed their answers to that question. “It appears as though about 0.1-0.3 percent of respondents are citizens who incorrectly identify themselves as non-citizens in the survey,” they explained in The Washington Post last month. “With a sample size of 19,000, even this low rate of error can result in a number of responses that appear notable when they are not.”