Even as President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he is ordering an investigation into voter fraud, state and local officials in Texas dismissed suggestions of widespread voting irregularities.
After telling congressional leaders this week that between 3 million and 5 million unauthorized immigrants had voted for Hillary Clinton and deprived him of the national popular vote — without providing any evidence and contrary to election administrators across the country — the president on Wednesday doubled down on his claim, announcing on Twitter that he will demand a “major investigation in VOTER FRAUD.”
“Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” he wrote.
But election officials say such an investigation will turn up nothing in Texas.
“There’s absolutely no evidence of this,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, a Democrat.
Asked whether she had seen any evidence of voter fraud in Hays County, county elections administrator Jennifer Anderson said: “Absolutely not.”
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure the right people are voting, who should be voting, and that their votes are counted the way they should be counted,” she said.
And Christopher Davis, elections administrator for Williamson County, said he has seen “no evidence our process, our systems, or our equipment has been compromised.”
State officials sounded the same theme.
“We have multiple layers of safeguards in place to prevent illegal voting and remain constantly vigilant to guarantee that the voices of Texans at the ballot box are not muted by those who attempt to engage in abuse or fraud within our election system,” said Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and whose office oversees elections.
Former Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, who oversaw the November election, told the American-Statesman: “I’ve never believed voter fraud was rampant in Texas.”
Those conclusions are echoed by election officials across the country, as well as national experts.
‘Zero evidence of fraud’
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have finalized their election results with no reports of the kind of widespread fraud that Trump is alleging.
On Tuesday, David Becker, executive director for the Center for Election Innovation and Research, wrote on Twitter: “Voting integrity better in this election than ever before. Zero evidence of fraud.”
Trump’s own attorneys dismissed claims of voter fraud in a legal filing responding to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s demand for a recount in Michigan late last year.
“On what basis does Stein seek to disenfranchise Michigan citizens? None really, save for speculation,” the attorneys wrote. “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”
Voting rights activists say Trump’s claims of voter fraud are part of an effort to make it harder to vote.
“Remember: this is all just groundwork for voter suppression measures coming your way,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s congressional allies appear uneasy with Trump’s claims: Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he knows of no indication of widespread illegal voting.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, while he has no doubt that voter fraud exists, he hasn’t seen any evidence to support Trump’s statements on widespread fraud.
“I think this is a huge distraction from really what we ought to be focusing on, which is giving the president his Cabinet so he can get to work for the American people. This really seems like a rabbit trail to me,” Cornyn said Tuesday night on Fox News.
DeBeauvoir, the Travis County clerk, said that, at a national meeting of government officials in Tucson, Ariz., this month, election officials said the November election had gone smoothly.
“None of us are finding any evidence (to back up Trump’s claims),” she said.
The Trump announcement comes a decade after the George W. Bush administration, as part of a crackdown on voter fraud, found no evidence of any organized efforts to twist federal elections.
Still, unsupported claims of widespread illegal voting persist.
The Sunday after the presidential election, Gregg Phillips, founder of an Austin health care analytics firm who is passionate about ferreting out voter fraud, tweeted “we have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.”
That claim was amplified by right-wing websites and was seen as the inspiration of a Trump tweet that made a similar assertion.
Asked this week by the Statesman to share his findings and methodology, Phillips said he would do so only after U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is sworn in as U.S. attorney general, given what he described as the hostility of Obama administration attorneys at the Justice Department.
Phillips said he had more than 10,000 volunteers working on the project, but that he wasn’t accepting volunteers from the general public. “We probably wouldn’t take on anyone else,” he said. “It’s hard to sort through the haters who just want to volunteer and plant viruses in our databases.”
Phillips serves on the board of Houston-based True the Vote, a right-of-center voter integrity group, which is undertaking its own study of fraud in the election.
In November, organization founder Catherine Engelbrecht said that analysis would be ready after the new year holiday. This week, she said that analysis “will not be completed for months.”
“The process can’t be rushed; it’s too important,” she told the Statesman.
Additional material from The Associated Press and The New York Times.