California Secretary Of State Calls Trump’s Bluff On Voter Fraud Conspiracies

Trump goes on tirade after being asked to back-up his voter fraud conspiracy theories with evidence
Donald Trump and Melania Trump vote in New York (Reuters / Carlo Allegri)

Donald Trump and Melania Trump vote in New York (Reuters / Carlo Allegri)

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has called on president-elect Donald Trump to bring forward “evidence” of voter fraud so the state can investigate “any real voter fraud.” Padilla’s request comes after Trump went on a Twitter rant that alleged “serious voter fraud” across three states and involving “millions of people.” The reality TV star turned politician provided no evidence to substantiate his claims.

In an interview with NPR on Monday, Alex Padilla called Trump’s allegations “completely unfounded” and warned that Trump casting doubt on the electoral process was a “ big disservice to our country and to our democracy.” He urged Trump to bring forward any proof or evidence but noted that “ cases of voter fraud across the country are statistically minimal if you go back decades.”

The word “minimal” arguably overstates the real problem of voter fraud. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt conducted an extensive study of voter fraud allegations in the United States between 2000 and 2014. Out of the over 1 billion ballots cast at general, primary, special, and municipal elections during that period, there were approximately 241 allegedly fraudulent ballots. That is less than 0.0000241% of the popular vote. In other words, voter fraud is a non-issue that has no impact on election outcomes.

Trump’s conspiracy theory about massive voter fraud involving “millions of people” likely came from a “report” on a pro-Trump conspiracy website Infowars entitled “Three Million Votes In Presidential Election Cast By Illegal Aliens.” In a subsequent YouTube video from November 23 called “Proof Donald Trump Won The Popular Vote,” the website’s founder Alex Jones also incoherently claimed that “some numbers had 20 million dead people potentially voting but conservatively we know four million.”

Jones, who has peddled conspiracy theories for decades, also claims that the US government was involved in the Oklahoma bombing, the moon landings were faked, and that the Sandy Hook school shooting never actually happened (Trump once appeared on Jones’s show and told him “your reputation is amazing”). Johns followed-up his allegations of voter fraud (which he described as “ uncontrovertible fact”) with a proclamation that is strikingly similar to the tweets Trump posted four day later — “Donald J. Trump didn’t just win the Electoral College in a landslide, he also clearly won the popular vote.”

After CNN’s senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny echoed Padilla’s statements about Trump’s baseless claims on AC360, Trump took to Twitter again— this time re-tweeting the four-part rant of a 16 year old who angrily castigated Zeleny as a “part time wannabe journalist” for daring to to question the inherent truth of Trump’s words.

Trump’s claim of voter fraud is not only baseless, it completely contradictions what Trump has been saying about the election since he won (which itself is of course is a complete contradiction of the “system is rigged” rhetoric he used before he won). In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s victory, he complained that it was “very unfair” that people would protest an election he described as “ very open and successful.” And just the day before he first made his recent voter fraud allegations, he dismissed Green Party-led efforts to recount the vote in some states as a “scam.”

An illuminating concept from George Orwell’s famous dystopian satire Nineteen Eighty-Four is “doublethink,” which Orwell describes as the “power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” Trump’s stated position on voter fraud is a form of doublethink. Trump claims that voter fraud took place on a massive, unprecedented scale and attacks anyone who questions the validity of his claims. At the same time, he attacks those calling for recounts to investigate if there was any voter fraud.

However, it is unlikely that Trump truly holds these two seemingly irreconcilable views. Trump is a master at manufacturing controversy to both draw and deflect attention to his advantage. His exaggerated, unsubstantiated stories about voter fraud no doubt enthuse much of his conspiracy-loving base. Perhaps more importantly his promotion of fiction diverts media and public attention away from issues of consequence that are actually taking place in the real world. Issues that, unlike Trump’s conspiracy theories, will impact people’s lives.

News // 2016 Election / Donald Trump / Elections / Politics