breaking news

FOLLOW LIVE: Texas finishes regular season against Texas Tech

Commentary: 2016 presidential election voter fraud study is justified


Some claim that Hillary Clinton’s national vote in the 2016 election was a result of “rampant voter fraud.” Others claim that there was no fraud. These conflicting claims have generated personal attacks by both sides. How is the public to assess these conflicting claims?

The absolutely critical distinction is between the persons listed as registered voters and those persons who actually voted. Every list of registered voters in the nation has at one time or another contained the names of persons ineligible to vote. Why?

A person may be listed among registered voters in two different jurisdictions or in a jurisdiction where they no longer live. If a registered voter moves from one state or county (jurisdiction A) to another (jurisdiction B) without canceling their voter registration in jurisdiction A, they may end up being registered in both jurisdictions. A person commonly overlooks the need for such cancellation amidst the distractions of moving.

Voter registrars eventually remove the mover’s name from the list of registered voters in jurisdiction A, but this removal is not immediate. Therefore, for a time a person is technically registered in two jurisdictions. Does this mean that the person intends to vote twice in the same race, such as the presidency? No.

A dead person may be listed among registered voters. If a person registers and then dies, his or her name may continue to be on the list of registered voters until it’s purged. Does this mean that someone is voting in place of the dead person? No.

Other ineligible voters may appear on a list of registered voters. Sometimes a small fraction of the persons swept up in a voter registration drive are noncitizens, convicted felons or otherwise ineligible to vote. Does this mean that these ineligible persons voted or will vote? No.

The often thankless task of keeping the list of registered voters accurate is never-ending, as people continue to move, die and be inadvertently swept up in voter registration drives.

Studies have consistently shown that persons do not intentionally vote unless eligible to do so. Most of us at one time or another has moved without canceling our voter registration or has known a registered voter who has died — but we don’t consider abusing these situations. Whatever pleasure may be exacted from casting a single vote in an election is far outweighed by the prospect of being prosecuted and jailed for voting illegally. In those very rare instances in which an ineligible person has voted, it has almost always been shown to be a result of an innocent mistake by the ineligible person or an election official.

Therefore, in assessing any claims of voter fraud, it is critical to understand whether the speaker or writer is referring to persons on a registration list or persons who actually voted. Unfortunately, politicians, political consultants and careless commentators often purposely or inadvertently conflate the two. The public must be willing to knowledgeably question any claim.

A further factor must be considered. In a country of over 300 million persons, many have the same name — or even the same name and birth date. It is very easy to confuse eligible and ineligible voters. Every study that has claimed to show ineligible persons voting has been shown to have this problem.

A thorough and unbiased study of possible voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election should be welcome. If ineligible persons voted or persons voted twice, let us know and learn. Otherwise, Americans will be left now and in the future with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud coming from Donald Trump’s administration at the White House. The claim of “rampant” voter fraud is an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to agree on a meaningful bipartisan study. We should not lose this chance.

Bickerstaff is a retired University of Texas law professor.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Viewpoints: City should not overlook Austin ISD in CodeNext talks
Viewpoints: City should not overlook Austin ISD in CodeNext talks

“We need a seat at the table.” That is the message the Austin Independent School District is sending to the city of Austin with a proposed resolution regarding CodeNext that trustees are expected to approve Monday. A firm statement outlining the district’s position on CodeNext is needed because city officials thus far have overlooked...
Commentary: Why movie ‘LBJ’ is a needed reminder about the presidency
Commentary: Why movie ‘LBJ’ is a needed reminder about the presidency

The film “LBJ” resurrects fading memories of the strength of the presidency when the Oval Office was occupied by a hard-working person with a clear agenda. Coarse and brutal at times, Lyndon Johnson harnessed the power of persuasion to the benefit of this nation. The screenplay by Joey Hartstone, with LBJ’s fellow Texan Woody Harrelson...
Commentary: Why Bobby Moore should not be on Texas’ death row

A man with intellectual disability – Bobby Moore – sits on death row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston. Like every person on death row in Texas, Moore is in constant solitary confinement – about 23 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For people with intellectual disability, solitary confinement is especially agonizing...
Commentary: Get smart on crime, not tough on crime
Commentary: Get smart on crime, not tough on crime

The Department of Justice recently released its long-awaited violent crime strategy. As both a retired lieutenant who spent 24 years with the Houston Police Department and as someone who lost a brother and a father to gun violence, I have mixed feelings about the policies outlined in it. A police officer’s job is difficult. Police chiefs across...
Letters to the editor: Nov. 25, 2017

Re: Nov. 17 article, “Cost-cutting measures coming to Hancock Golf Course.” If the city really wanted to improve the popularity and corresponding increase in revenues at Hancock Golf Course, maybe they should consider renovating the existing course into 18 par-3 holes and install lights for evening play. It would be a fun course to walk...
More Stories