President Donald Trump’s recent allegation that he lost the popular vote in the November election due to “illegals” voting appears to have been based off of an unverified claim someone made on his favorite communication platform: Twitter.
Throughout November and December Trump took to Twitter to insist he would have won the popular vote which he lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 3 million votes if “illegal” votes were not counted.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
The president this month called for a widespread investigation into voter fraud (despite numerous studies debunking it as a myth), with the White House backing him up. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump “believes what he believes,” even though experts insisted that to pull off what Trump proposed would have been next to impossible and would signify a much larger national problem if accomplished.
Then, on January 27, Trump revealed who would be leading the investigation into his latest claim.
Look forward to seeing final results of VoteStand. Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better!
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2017
Gregg Phillips, the self-proclaimed founder of a voter fraud reporting app, tweeted in November just days after the election that he and a group of volunteers had “verified more than three million votes” cast illegally.
We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.
Gregg Phillips (@JumpVote) November 13, 2016
The tweet was sent before any states had even certified their results. Phillips said in an interview with The Daily Beast last week that he had the names of millions of people who had voted illegally and he intended to release the names. However, Phillips has yet to reveal any of his data, or the algorithm he and his “volunteers” used to reach this conclusion.
The Associated Press discovered this week that Phillips is registered to vote in three separate states: Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. He is considered “inactive” in Mississippi and his status his “suspended” in Texas. Officials reported to AP that “Phillips could have voted, however, by producing identification and updating his address at the polls.”
Paul Mitchell, a representative from voter data firm Political Data in California, reported to The Washington Post that one possibility would be that the numbers Phillips and his group obtained could have come from early voting records. But statistically, it is almost impossible that this is the case, the article reported:
“About47 million people voted early, including about 5.2 million in California. Mitchell notes, though, that in the nation’s largest state, only about 15 percent of the early votes cast were by Latinos, meaning that if Phillips’s data suggests that most of the immigrants voting illegally are from Central and South America, nearly all of those early votes would have had to have been from illegal voters.”
Based off of previous research, this scenario is highly unlikely. A News 21 study found just 56 cases of noncitizens voting between 2001 and 2011.
Voter fraud has been found to be virtually nonexistent and in fact is often the guise for voter suppression tactics, a study from the Brennan Center for Justice reported. “As historians and election experts have catalogued, there is a long history in this country of racially suppressive voting measures including poll taxes and all-white primaries put in place under the guise of stopping voter fraud that wasn’t actually occurring in the first place,” the report states. “The surest way toward voting that is truly free, fair, and accessible is to know the facts in the face of such rhetoric.”
“There is no evidence of massive voter fraud none. The notion that millions of people voted illegally two months ago, and nobody noticed, is preposterous on its face. Election officials, leaders of the president’s own party, and every academic and journalistic investigation confirms this,” said Michael Waldman, president theBrennan Center for Justiceat NYU School of Law, in a recent statement.
One study that Trump himself cited has been proven to be based on flawed data. While on the campaign trail Trump alleged that 14 percent of noncitizens are registered to vote. His team said that he was referring to a Harvard study. However, researchers from the study explained that their conclusions were incorrect due to a simple mistake: in the survey, many citizens accidentally identified themselves as noncitizens after reading a question incorrectly, according to PolitiFact:
“How do they know this Schaffner, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, said the group has conducted surveys where they ask people questions regarding their citizenship and some people change their answers.
“‘When we took out people who changed their answer on the citizenship question and only look at people who answered consistently that they were noncitizens, we found no reported noncitizens who voted,’ Schaffner told PolitiFact.”
Phillips and his group of “volunteers” reportedly worked with True the Vote, a conservative organization headquartered in Texas that purportedly works to fight voter fraud. The group was the center of a congressional investigation several years ago due to allegedly engaging in voter suppression tactics.
Despite the lack of evidence to back his allegations, Phillips’ tweet in November was picked up by InfoWars, a known conspiracy site. Drudge Report, another popular right-wing outlet, then picked up the InfoWars article and gave it even more notoriety.
As summed up by ThinkProgress: “To recap: In the span of a week, ‘3 million illegal votes’ went from an unverified tweet, to an Infowars article, to Drudge report, to the President-elect’s new favorite talking point.”
In addition to Phillips, InfoWars and Drudge Report, Trump has also recently made many statements that appear to be based off of Fox News, which has a history of bias and racism in its reporting.