Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap had an observation about the unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud that Republican President Donald J. Trump and other purveyors of such fakery should take to heart – but won’t.
“The plural of anecdote is not data.”
So said Dunlap, a Democrat, in a letter last week to the now-disbanded voting integrity commission launched in May 2017 by the Trump administration.
The letter was sent to Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, both Republicans who led the panel. It was prompted by an analysis of administration documents that provided no evidence to support the claims that have become political red meat for Trump’s supporters.
It is instructive that the commission was disbanded in January with little fanfare, unlike its launch last year when Trump went on a tear about the millions of people who voted illegally in the 2016 election.
Trump’s denigration of the electoral process has everything to do with his bruised ego and nothing to do with the facts.
While the Republican nominee for president won the Electoral College vote and thus the 2016 election, his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton received 2.8 million more votes overall.
The president has refused to accept that result, saying that illegally cast votes gave Clinton the edge.
Yet, his commission, which only met twice, went out of business without issuing a report. In other words, Pence, Kobach and other members could not come up with the evidence to support the president’s claims.
But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to cast doubt about the integrity of elections in this country. Such a blanket indictment of the process has resulted in Republican and Democratic secretaries of state stoutly defending themselves and their states, and rejecting Trump’s broadsides.
In April, the president was in West Virginia for what was billed as a roundtable discussion about taxes when he went off script and repeated a claim about voter fraud.
“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times – you’ve probably heard about that,” he said. “They always like to say ‘oh that’s a conspiracy theory’ – not a conspiracy theory folks. Millions and millions of people.”
Legitimate, independent organizations that monitor elections in this country have all challenged Trump’s assertions, but that hasn’t stopped him.
He has correctly concluded his supporters don’t want to be confused by the facts. They want to believe Trump not only won the Electoral College vote, but also was favored by a majority of Americans who cast ballots in 2016. Like their idol, they cannot fathom the idea that Clinton won the popularity contest.
To repeat Maine Secretary of State Dunlap’s observation of the voter-fraud allegations: “The plural of anecdote is not data.”
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University also has weighed in on Trump’s go-to issue when he’s trying to fire up his base.
“ … study after study has shown that voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and voter impersonation is nearly non-existent.”
There is very real concern that Americans’ trust in the electoral system is further diminished every time Trump makes some ridiculous comment about what’s taking place in the voting booth.
“It’s sad the president continues to recycle his same old lies,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “His rants dishonor the thousands of local elections officials and volunteers, from across the political spectrum, who work hard to ensure the integrity of our elections.”
But Kobach, the vice chairman of Trump’s voter-fraud commission and a candidate for governor of Kansas, remains firm in his contention that a problem does exist.
“For some people, no mater how many cases of voter fraud you show them, there will never be enough for them to admit there’s a problem,” he said.
And in reaction to Maine’s secretary of state, Kobach said this: “It appears that Secretary Dunlap is willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose.”
But here’s the bottom line: Voter fraud isn’t the major problem Trump and his allies claim it is. They must know that their constant attacks serve to further undermine people’s trust in the electoral system.