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After claiming three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election last January, President Trump called for “a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD” just days later in a tweet.
This week, the President established his “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” to carry out that investigation. Yet it is not at all clear that the voting “problems” that President Trump wants the commission to address are in fact problems.
The last federal investigation into voter fraud that concluded in 2007 found very little evidence of voter fraud, with convictions nationwide numbering less than 100. And in California, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee, where state election officials have completed reviews of the 2016 election, no evidence has been found of widespread voter fraud. The highest percentage of possible voter fraud is around 0.003 percent.
However, there are very real problems with our voting system that could be addressed by a Commission. Evidence shows that an estimated 1.2 million eligible voters tried to vote in the 2012 election but were unable to because of registration problems. An additional two million were unable to vote because they could not find their polling place or left because of long lines.
If the Commission wants to improve “election integrity” it can do so by investigating how states can better remove barriers to legitimate voters both registering for and exercising their right to vote, like expanding early voting and adding additional polling places. It can identify ways to reduce errors in the voter registration system and improve the accuracy and security of voter rolls. Automatic voter registration policies that have been implemented in seven states and Washington D.C. provide a good example.
It remains to be seen what direction the commission will take, but we urge it to address real issues with our system by improving accuracy, security, and the ability of all Americans to participate in the democratic process rather than squander it attempting to support unfounded claims.
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