Here’s the Entertaining Saga of Donald Trump’s 3-5 Million Illegal Voters

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


I’ve managed to restrain myself from commenting on President Trump’s idiotic claim that 3-5 million noncitizens voted in the 2016 election,1 but I have to admit that I’ve been entertained by the ever-changing cast of studies that have been trotted out to defend this claim:

  1. Trump himself first cited a 2012 Pew study, and became angry when ABC’s David Muir suggested he had misinterpreted it. But he had. The study in question was solely about inefficiencies in voter registration, not fraudulent voting. In fact, at the time the report was released the author specifically said that he had “not seen evidence” of any fraudulent voting.
     
  2. With that shot down, attention turned to a 2014 study by Jesse Richman and David Earnest. This one used survey responses to construct an estimate of fraudulent voting, and concluded that a maximum of 500 thousand to 1 million noncitizens might have voted in recent federal elections. This is far below Trump’s claim, and anyway it’s virtually certain that the study is massively flawed due to its tiny sample size. Once that’s accounted for, the most likely conclusion from this study is that zero noncitizens voted.
     
  3. With two studies shot down, Trump tweeted today about an old favorite that he heard about again on CNN this morning. This time it’s a guy named Greg Phillips, an old tea partier who’s now a board member of True the Vote. Remember them from 2012? Phillips is also the author of a smartphone voter-fraud reporting app. I’m not joking about this. Phillips recruited a small army of folks who were worried about the election being rigged, and they all downloaded his app and then sent in reports of fishy-looking voters on Election Day. The app is, um, not very sophisticated. Check it out:
     
    That’s the whole thing. Phillips combined these reports with his archive of “184 million voting records we’ve collected over time,” and then applied an “enormous amount of analytic capability” to produce a final list of 3 million fraudulent votes. He claims that after everything is verified, which will take a few more months, he will release his full list along with the algorithm he used. You betcha. This is so ridiculous it’s basically self-debunking.

So that’s where we are. Trump burbles something stupid, and then his defenders rush out to dig up evidence to support him, each defense more harebrained than the last. I can hardly wait to see what’s next. Sampling the entire nation’s voting records for names with diacritical marks and then comparing it to a survey of people in Toledo? Claiming the NSA has phone records of voter fraud stored at Area 51? The mind boggles.

1Even without knowing anything, it’s idiotic. There are about 20 million noncitizens in the US. Trump is therefore saying that 15-25 percent of all noncitizens voted. This is fantastically beyond anything even remotely plausible.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate