Trump Says Millions Voted Illegally. Is He Right?

The latest controversy involving President Donald Trump is his latest statement that millions of people voted illegally and it cost him the popular vote. The media is enraged, running "fact-checks" claiming that it's another example of Trump's "alternative facts." Who is right?

Per usual, the answer seems to be somewhere in the middle: Trump is correct that there were likely millions of illegal votes but not to the point where it lost him the popular vote.

The Daily Wire's James Barrett has reported that Trump claimed the number of illegals that voted were in the "3-5 million" range, which would have been enough to overcome the two to three million vote deficit in which he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. The media, of course, has claimed that there is no such evidence of illegals voting.

However, the Daily Wire's John Nolte noted that in 2014, the Washington Post reported on data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) compiled by various researchers that provided evidence of illegals voting:

How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections.

According to James Agresti at Just Facts, the data shows that around 38,000 to 2.8 million noncitizens voted in the 2008 election, with the most likely number being 1.2 million.

When the researchers published their findings of the data in a 2014 paper in the Electoral Studies journal, the left pounced on it with numerous false criticisms, all of which have been debunked here. There are, however, some limitations with the paper, as Just Facts notes that it was based off an Internet poll from YouGov and likely undercounts the number of noncitizens in the country as well as those that voted.

Flaws aside, the paper is the best evidence available to extrapolate as to just how many people voted illegally in the election. Agresti argues that there were likely more illegals voting in 2016 than in 2008:

  • Trump campaigned on a promise to crack down on illegal immigration, and this may have driven non-citizens to vote against him.
  • the number of adult non-citizens in the U.S. recorded by the Census Bureau has risen from 19.4 million in 2008 to 21.0 million in 2016.
  • shortly before the election, Obama publicly stated that election records are not cross-checked against immigration databases and “there is not a situation where the voting rolls somehow are transferred over and people start investigating, et cetera.” This let non-citizens know that they stand little chance of being caught if they vote.

Nolte made a similar argument.

"Using the widely disputed Left/MSM number of 11 million illegals, this particular study claims that millions of illegal votes could have been cast during the 2008 presidential election," wrote Nolte. "When you consider the focus on Hispanic turnout during the 2016 election, combined with all the talk about border walls and racism, and no less than President Obama reassuring illegals they could flood the polls without fearing any consequence… Well, you fill in the blank."

Agresti notes that that 12.4 percent of non-citizens would have had to have voted for Trump to be correct. If the paper's 1.2 million number is correct, that means that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008. Did the aforementioned reasons cause the noncitizen vote to double in eight years' time?

Possibly. But more than likely, the non-citizen vote was not the reason why Trump lost the popular vote.

"There is material evidence of substantial vote fraud, though it does not prove that Trump would have won the popular vote if such fraud were prevented," Agresti suggested. "It only shows that this is a possibility."

Maybe a White House investigation will prove Trump right, but this latest incident seems to be another example of Trump overstating his case. On the other hand, the media is wrong to dismiss the notion of voter fraud altogether. As the Daily Wire has explained here, voter fraud is a legitimate problem.

This article has corrected the source of the data as from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and published in a 2014 Electoral Studies journal paper.

Follow Aaron Bandler on Twitter @bandlersbanter.


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