On January 25, President Donald Trump called for the federal government to spend resources investigating alleged “voter fraud” in the 2016 elections. Unable to accept the fact that he lost the popular vote by some 2.8 million votes, President Trump has repeated his naked and reckless claim that three-to-five million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election by “illegal immigrants.”
However, this notion of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election, or any other American election cycle for that matter, is false and dangerous. Voter fraud has been proven virtually non-existent through studies conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, Arizona State University, and the Washington Post, among others.
The Washington Post’s 2015 study showed that between 2000 and 2014 there were only 31 alleged cases of in-person voter fraud among the over one billion votes cast in the United States during that time period. Yet, this supposed widespread voter fraud is consistently used as justification for voting restrictions that suppress the votes of African Americans and Latinos.
While reasonable people can debate many issues regarding the operation of our electoral process, one thing is clear: widespread voter fraud, such as that alleged by President Trump, is a complete myth.
In stark contrast to the myth of widespread voter fraud is the proven reality of voter suppression. A number of federal courts across the country have determined that certain states enacted voting restrictions that discriminated against Black and Latino Americans, as in Texas, or, worse yet, were written with the specific intent to suppress the Black vote, as in North Carolina.
In fact, a federal appellate court held that North Carolina’s law targeted African American voters with “almost surgical precision.” Voting restrictions such as those recently struck down in Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere weaken our democracy and themselves cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of our electoral processes.
If President Trump is serious about strengthening our democracy, he should demand that Congress send him a bill to restore Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, such as the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015. He should also withdraw the nomination of Senator Jefferson Sessions for Attorney General and put forth a nominee with a record of supporting voting rights for all Americans. And he should acknowledge the widespread voter suppression taking place in this country while rejecting the myth that voter fraud justifies blocking access to the ballot box for millions of Black and Latino voters.
Cornell William Brooks is president and CEO of the NAACP, (www.naacp.org).