President Trump on Wednesday morning announced that he would launch an investigation into voter fraud, perpetuating his false claims that millions of people illegally voted in the U.S. presidential election.
Since November, Trump has repeatedly made unfounded claims that millions of non-citizens voted illegally in the election and cost him the popular vote to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But there is no evidence to support such claims.
Notably, Trump’s own lawyers dismissed claims of fraud when responding to a recount effort by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake,” they wrote in a legal filing last month.
But Trump has repeated the claims anyway.
“I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and….even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” he said in tweets on Wednesday morning.
Here’s what you need to know.
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud
While there is no evidence that millions of people voted illegally in the election, there is evidence that voter rolls are often outdated — which can lead to voters being registered in multiple states or dead people remaining on voter lists.
Neither is automatic evidence of fraud. In fact, senior White House adviser Stephen Bannon is registered to vote in Florida and New York—where he cast his ballot in November — the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
In confirming Trump’s beliefs on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer referenced a 2012 Pew Center on the States report about the need to upgrade the voter registration system. According to the report, more than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters, and about 2.75 million people are registered to vote in more than one state. Neither data point is evidence of fraud.
The report focused on how outdated voter registration systems are costly, inefficient and can lead to the “perception” that voting systems “lack integrity.”
Researchers refute Trump’s claims
The primary author of that report, David Becker, has refuted Trump’s claims of fraud. “As I’ve noted before, voting integrity better in this election than ever before. Zero evidence of fraud,” Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, said in a tweet Tuesday.
His findings have been echoed by others. A 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law found that incidents of voting fraud are rare, occurring just 0.00004 percent and 0.0009 percent of the time.
And in December, the Washington Post analyzed news reports across the country and found just four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election.
Democrats are sounding alarms about voter suppression
Democratic lawmakers and voting rights activists have countered Trump’s claims and warned that his promise to “strengthen up voting procedures” will lead to voter suppression.
House Democrats on Wednesday sent letters to election officials in all 50 states, requesting information about any individual cases of voter fraud. The letters were signed by Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Brady and South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn.
“President Trump wants a major investigation of voter fraud — well now he has one,” Cummings said in a statement. “He continues to be obsessed with false numbers and statistics, but these are not ‘alternative facts,’ and there is no evidence to support these claims. What is a fact is that Republicans in statehouses across America have passed restrictive laws that impair the ability of legitimate voters to participate, and they use the myth of voter fraud to justify their abuses.”
At a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Spicer said the investigation will cover more than just the 2016 election. He said Trump’s lawyers never looked into potential fraud in big states that were not part of Stein’s recount effort, naming New York and California as examples.
“This is about the integrity of our voting system,” he said. “I think we have to understand where the problem exists, how deep it goes, and then suggest some remedies to it.”