On Thursday, North Carolina’s Board of Elections unanimously ordered a new House election in the state’s Ninth Congressional District, in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Republican who “won” that narrow race had done so with aid of an absentee-ballot fraud operation.
Donald Trump has made combating election fraud one of his signature causes. Early in his tenure, he empaneled a commission to study the issue. His fear of voter fraud is so intense, he has routinely hallucinated it — condemning electoral malfeasance in contests where none existed.
And yet, the president issued no statement on the most significant instance of proven election fraud in modern American history — one that had just triggered the first federal election “rerun” in more than 40 years.
During an Oval Office press conference Friday afternoon, Trump was asked about this conspicuous silence. Here’s how he replied:
Well, I condemn any election fraud. And when I look at what’s happened in California with the votes, when I look at what happened — as you know, there was just a case where they found a million fraudulent votes — when I look at what’s happened in Texas, when I look at that catastrophe that took place in Florida, where the Republican candidates kept getting less and less and less and less. Fortunately, Rick Scott and Ron ended up winning their election, but it was disgraceful when it happened there. I condemn any voter fraud of any kind whether it’s Democrat or Republican. But when you look at some of the things that happened in California in particular. When you look at what’s happened in Texas with all of those votes that they recently found were not exactly properly done. I condemn all of it, and that includes North Carolina — if anything, I guess they’re going to be doing a final report. But I’d like to see the final report.
Here, Trump appears to reference:
• A viral Facebook post that falsely claimed that millions of illegal votes were cast in California last November. The post attributes its data to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch; Judicial Watch has said that the data referenced is not theirs, but is rather “just some random person misinterpreting.” It is also possible that Trump is merely referencing the fact that many Republican candidates in California led the vote on Election Night, only to lose days later, after all the voters were counted. It is understandable that a partisan layman might have found this fishy. But it merely reflects the fact that Democrats overwhelmingly live in heavily populated urban areas, which do not receive electoral resources proportional to the size of their electorates. For this reason, getting a complete count of all ballots cast in dense, Democratic-leaning precincts takes longer than doing so in rural, Republican-leaning ones.
• In Florida, Republican candidates also lost votes after Election Day, due, in part, to Broward County election officials’ incompetence. But an investigation into alleged impropriety turned up no evidence of fraudulent activity. Still, Trump is partly right — it was disgraceful what happened in the Sunshine State last year: Rick Scott probably wouldn’t have won his Senate election if he hadn’t used his authority as governor to disenfranchise a wide swath of Florida’s African-American population.
In Texas, Republican officials claimed earlier this year to have discovered 95,000 noncitizens on their voting rolls, 58,000 of whom had apparently voted in at least one election between 1996 and 2018. Since then, however, those officials have admitted that at least 20,000 of those registered voters are, in fact, citizens. It remains possible that some ineligible voters cast ballots in Texas in 2018. But there is no evidence that this was anywhere near prevalent enough to affect any elections.
Proven instances of voter fraud deserve loud condemnation because they undermine the legitimacy of all our nation’s elections — and thus, our collective capacity to settle our political conflicts nonviolently. Trump’s remarks in the Oval Office Friday deserve such condemnation for the same reason.