Voting booths inside the Early Vote Center, Oct. 5, 2016, in Minneapolis, Minn. 
Photo by Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty

Why Trump’s claims about dead voters don’t make sense

Most of the time, when Donald Trump says something outlandish and is pressed for evidence, he relies on some combination of his memory, right-wing conspiracy websites, or actual proof he misunderstood. With this in mind, something the Republican nominee said at this week’s presidential debate is worth a closer look.
“If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote – millions, this isn’t coming from me, this is coming from Pew Report and other places – millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.”
At an event in Ohio yesterday, Trump repeated the claim, but added an element of criminality.
“1.8 million people are dead. But they’re registered to vote. Some of whom vote even though they’re dead, which is really a hard thing to do. But it’s easy if fraud is involved, right? So you have 1.8 million people who are dead who are registered to vote. And some of them vote.”
And this got me thinking about what, exactly, the Pew Center found in the study Trump is so eager to tout. Did Pew actually issue a report that bolsters some of the GOP candidate’s claims?

Not exactly. Four years ago, the Pew Center published a report on errors and inefficiencies in the nation’s voter-registration system, which the research organization concluded is in need of a systemic upgrade. It did find, for example, that roughly 1.8 million deceased people were still on voter registration rolls nationwide and should be removed.

But that’s not evidence of fraud. Sometimes, Americans register to vote, then die, then remain on voter lists because the rolls aren’t updated as efficiently as they should be. The Pew Center didn’t point to any evidence of dead voters casting ballots, only dead people who haven’t been removed from the system.

In other words, Trump – or those who tell Trump what to say – saw the Pew report and made a leap: if 1.8 million deceased people are still on voter registration rolls, it’s proof of widespread fraud. Except it’s not.

If Trump and other Republicans wanted to use findings like these to make the case for improving the voter-registration system and process, I imagine they’d find quite a few Democrats who’d welcome the opportunity. After all, much of the left has been pushing for reforms such as automatic voter registration and related steps to make it easier for Americans to participate in their own democratic system.

In recent years, however, GOP officials have been hostile to these kinds of changes, and have even taken steps in some states to curtail voter-registration efforts.



Donald Trump and Voting Rights

Why Trump's claims about dead voters don't make sense