What happened to Trump’s claim of massive voter fraud?
Donald Trump’s peculiar penchant for making outrageous claims — consider, for example, the ludicrous arguments he made during his birtherism phase of five years ago, or his recent complaint that Barack Obama waged a campaign of eavesdropping last year at Trump Tower — has become a part of his personality. We expect it of him, especially when he portrays himself as the victim.
Remember his explanation of why he apparently lost to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes in the tally of popular votes in last year’s presidential election? He said it was a case of massive voter fraud and promised to order a full-scale investigation of the matter. But the issue now seems to have been forgotten. Even Republican election officials around the country have said they’ve seen no evidence of voter fraud in the November election, and Trump accordingly says nothing about it anymore.
Does this mean that Republicans in general have forsaken what was once a favorite issue of theirs? Not long ago, GOP officials across the land were fond of arguing that widespread voter fraud was a good excuse for them taking bold measures to guard against it.
Five years ago, USA Today editorialized thusly:
Since the 2008 elections, a growing number of governors and state legislatures have mounted an aggressive effort to stamp out voting fraud, not with entirely pure motives…
You’d think there was a raging epidemic of fraud around the country to justify all this diligent effort, but if there is, it’s awfully hard to detect. As evidence of the need for Texas’ tough new photo ID law, Attorney General Greg Abbott noted that the state had prosecuted 50 cases of vote fraud over the past decade — an average of five cases a year. Not exactly a crime wave.
In fact, what’s really going on is a fight for partisan advantage. Republicans, overwhelmingly the authors of these new restrictions, benefit by holding down turnout of those least likely to register: poorer, older and minority citizens who tend to vote Democratic. Democrats, of course, want the opposite.
It’s hard to say whether Trump had this conspiratorial climate in mind when he complained about victimization in last year’s presidential election. He might have thought that the Republican Party in general would sympathize with his claims of big-time voter fraud. But that hasn’t been the case.
Instead, the Clinton-Trump race might serve as good evidence that Republican rhetoric about voter fraud is often just hooey and that we need not heed the push for tighter voting restrictions that only work to the advantage of the GOP.