I Spent Some Time On The White House Website's 'Voter Fraud' Page—Here's What I Found
“The United States has a long and unfortunate history of election fraud,” the ominous introduction reads. The words are printed in a bold opaque white over an ominous-looking blood-red background of empty voting booths. The imagery is not subtle: Fear! Terror! Crumbling democracy! Freedom under attack!
Yet this is not some fringe, right-wing website. It’s whitehouse.gov, sharing information from a database compiled by The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing “think tank” whose primary goal is to erect barriers to left-wing values.
Trump and his supporters have long been obsessed with the idea of widespread voter fraud. Indeed, a presidential commission assembled by Trump in 2017 to investigate claims of mass voter fraud led to one of the more embarrassing failures of his administration that we really should mock more. The commission claimed it had uncovered 100,000 instances of voter fraud and yet refused to share evidence of it. Matt Dunlap, a top election official in Maine and a Democrat, was denied access to 1,800 documents during his tenure on the commission. Upon receiving those documents via a court order, he found no evidence to confirm the claims made by Republican members of the commission. The commission was disbanded the following January. Sadly, that was long after “news” outlets like Breitbart spread disinformation about the 100,000 instances of voter fraud to their millions of Trump-worshiping followers.
And it didn’t stop the Trump administration from continuing to push the voter fraud narrative: “This is not an exhaustive list but simply a sampling that demonstrates the many different ways in which fraud is committed,” the whitehouse.gov website states. Note the manipulative wording. If I were trying to make a serious, scientific, data-driven case to demonstrate the undeniable ubiquity of voter fraud, I would not use a “sampling” to show the “many different ways” voter fraud could be committed. There is a reason these sites are not clear about the numbers.
What I read between the lines with their collection of “data” is that The Heritage Foundation could only find spotty instances of petty, individual-driven voter fraud and not a mass conspiracy that in any way threatens democracy. The White House page even says “1071 proven instances of voter fraud,” which, given the use of the word “proven,” reads to me like creative wording that really means “legally we’re only allowed to show you cases where a conviction was made, therefore this teeny tiny sampling is all we have.”
Also interesting about The Heritage Foundation data: they don’t provide a timeframe. There is no scientific number or percentages to indicate prevalence of voter fraud within a given period of time. The Heritage Foundation’s website claims their database “presents a sampling of recent proven instances of election fraud” yet does not clarify the meaning of “recent.” Is 1982 “recent”? Because that’s how far back The Heritage Foundation’s voter fraud data goes.
Neither the whitehouse.gov nor the Heritage website indicates what kinds of elections are being sampled. Is this list a compilation of instances of voter fraud only during national elections? Or does it also include local? And … how local? State? Or are we getting all the way down into county and city elections? I suppose voter fraud is voter fraud, but isn’t it relevant to know which kinds of elections are most susceptible to it?
Heritage’s website uses unscientific language like “can.” For example, they say, “fraud can have an impact in close elections.” Not does. The reason they use the word “can” is because they don’t have the necessary evidence to use the word “does.” They don’t have a single proven instance of a case in which voter fraud swayed an election. Any election. Americans need to be wary of this kind of misleading language. “Can” and “does” are very, very different words.
An organization who cared about truth over agenda would be extremely clear about variables like timeframe and location. It would say something like, “In election years 19XX – 20XX, in a review of elections from Location ABC to Location XYZ, X number of instances of voter fraud occurred, indicating X% of election interference. This prevalence of voter fraud impacts outcomes of X% of elections.”
An unbiased, data-driven organization in search of truth would not toss in a word like “recent,” which means absolutely nothing (the Paleolithic era was “recent,” relative to the Big Bang) and then cite voter fraud from 40 years ago.
And wouldn’t it make sense to note which direction this voter fraud tends to point? The implication by Trump supporters when they allege “rampant voter fraud” is that any fraud committed must be committed by a Democrat. I selected one at random, David Koch, and did a quick search. He was an Alaskan Republican convicted of casting illegal votes in 2010 and 2012. I wouldn’t be surprised if, on top of voter fraud being exceedingly rare, the right versus left instances ended up being a wash.
The Heritage Foundation and the Trump administration who control these websites are perfectly aware they are using vague, misleading language. They trust that their followers will see a number higher than a thousand and make broad, sweeping assumptions about the impact of that number. Properly brainwashed Trump supporters assume each of the 1,000+ instances of voter fraud must be large, coordinated efforts that had a measurable impact on the outcomes of numerous elections. They don’t take the time to read further and realize that 1. Nearly all of these cases are single individuals acting alone, 2. The information gathered spans a 40-year period, 3. There are cases of voter fraud on both sides of the aisle, and 4. There is not a single instance where voter fraud was definitively shown to have changed, or been capable of changing, the outcome of an election.
Trump’s White House and The Heritage Foundation put this information right out in front of the American public where anyone can read it and quickly see voter fraud is not a real problem, and they did it with complete confidence that Trump supporters would not be the kind of folks to actually read and interpret the data. Here is the truth: About the same number of people are killed by lightning strikes in the U.S. every year as are convicted of committing voter fraud. Anyone can do this math.
Anyone, that is, except apparently a Trump supporter.
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