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

Opinion: America’s unsustainable empire

Before President Trump trashes the Iran nuclear deal, he might consider: If he could negotiate an identical deal with Kim Jong Un, it would astonish the world and win him the Nobel Peace Prize. For Iran has no nuclear bomb or ICBM and has never tested either. It has cameras inside and inspectors crawling all over its nuclear facilities. And North Korea?...
Opinion: Macron on Trumpism — Non!

WASHINGTON — The early story line about President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron focused on their “bromance” and Trump’s puerile claim to dominance when he brushed what he said was dandruff off Macron’s suit. But on the last day of his state visit on Wednesday, Macron showed he will not be trifled with. He...
Was Jeff Davis Avenue named after a different Jefferson Davis?
Was Jeff Davis Avenue named after a different Jefferson Davis?

Pop quiz: Jeff Davis was ________________________. (a) A populist governor and U.S. Senator from Arkansas in the early 1900s. (b) A comedian on the TV show “Whose line is it anyway?” (c) The first and only president of the Confederacy. (d) An artist who creates mementos out of old vinyl records. OK, technically all four of those men were...
Letters to the editor: April 26, 2018
Letters to the editor: April 26, 2018

Re: April 23 letter to the editor, “Mafia? Comey flatters Trump.” I’ve stood blithely by while insults are hurled back and forth between opposing political and social factions without ever saying or writing a word of protest. But now one of your readers has gone too far. As co-captain of the Hooligan golf group in Georgetown, I must...
Commentary: Help pre-K kids manage feelings instead of suspending them
Commentary: Help pre-K kids manage feelings instead of suspending them

What about the four-year-old who tears posters off the classroom wall? Or the pre-K student who threw his shoes? Those are two of the responses we’ve received to our report about the 101,000 times Texas school districts suspended students in pre-K through second grade in a single year. We can imagine how frustrating and disruptive it was for...
More Stories