Did 3 million illegal immigrants vote in the 2016 election as Gregg Phillips of VoteStand claims? The stunning allegation was made earlier this week and has begun to go viral all over Facebook and Twitter. Republicans and conservatives have jumped on the claim and started to allege it is possible that Donald Trump's popular vote count may be higher than Hillary Clinton's votes assuming the alleged votes by undocumented illegal aliens were filtered out.
[UPDATE] Trump has repeated the allegations by Phillips and True The Vote has responded with a press release that includes hints about their plans. Please click the link to the left for the full details. [UPDATE: January 26, 2017] True The Vote has discussed their plans for 2017 based upon President Trump talking about having a "major investigation" into alleged voter fraud.
The drama over 3 million illegal aliens voting started on November 10 when Philips tweeted out that VoteStand's "best estimates suggest more than 2 million illegals voted on Tuesday. Mechanisms must be deployed to stop illegals from voting." Within several days, Phillips claimed that their system had "verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens. We are joining True The Vote to initiate legal action.... We are preparing a lawsuit to be filed in federal court."
He also began "asking Americans to submit video affidavits and join us in massive suit against the government over non-citizen voting." It was stated they "will open the door to everyone who wants to join the suit" and the two organizations plan on using lawyers that specialize in Constitutional laws and election law.
Allegation Of Massive Voter Fraud And Election Rigging Goes ViralNeedless to say, the allegation that 3 million illegal immigrants voted caused an online uproar, especially when conservative media outlets began picking up the story. Phillips defended against accusations that he was lying by saying, "Our data and methods related to non-citizens voting has been argued before the Supreme Court. Hey haters, this stuff is real." Phillips is apparently referencing a U.S. Supreme Court case where the Public Interest Legal Foundation used "True the Vote's research to demonstrate how current mechanisms were failing to block admitted non-citizens from voter registration."
The VoteStand leader noted that the organization started in 2006 and he claims their "methodology, tools and techniques are proven." True The Vote began in 2009 and their website claims their mission is to "equip volunteers for involvement at every stage of America's electoral process. We provide training, technology, and support to fellow citizens so that they can ensure election integrity in their own communities."
Unfortunately, VoteStand is leaving everyone sitting on pills and needles since their report has not been released yet. Phillips did comment that the "data is not accessible via web" and that the "tedious work" of sorting the data is currently underway. He also mentioned that True The Vote is handling duplicates, dead voters, and double votes in a "separate project."
Where Is The Evidence For Illegal Aliens Voting?Various freelance journalists have attempted to reach out to Phillips. For example, journalist Dan Tynan requested to see the data and the sources for the claims about 3 million illegal immigrants voting. In response, Philips tweeted, "No. We will release it in open form to the American people. We won't allow the media to spin this first. Sorry."
The only explanation Phillips was willing to provide was that VoteStand and True The Vote's data was based upon a database of 180 million voters over six years. It is claimed this data will verify his allegations since their database is "enhanced and tagged with non-citizens" and their "methodology requires verification of identity first. 42 percent of the registrations can't verify ID."
Independent of Phillips' allegations, Harvard's Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) attempted to gather election data that's relevant to the 2016 election. In 2014, the CCES data was used by professors at Old Dominion University (ODU) to estimate the rate of non-citizens voting in a study published in Electoral Studies.
"There is evidence that some non-citizen immigrants voted in both 2008 and 2010.... Since the adult non-citizen population of the United States was roughly 19.4 million (CPS, 2011), the number of non-citizen voters... could range from just over 38,000 at the very minimum to nearly 2.8 million at the maximum."The study was based upon the election data from 2008. It claims that illegal immigrant voters "favor Democratic candidates over Republican candidates" and they "likely changed 2008 outcomes including Electoral College votes and the composition of Congress."
However, in 2015 a response to the study co-written by Stephen Ansolabehere of Harvard claimed the study represented "a biased estimate of the rate at which non-citizens voted in recent elections. The results, we show, are completely accounted for by very low frequency measurement error; further, the likely percent of non-citizen voters in recent US elections is 0." They claim the study was flawed because the CCES "survey was not designed to sample non-citizens" and they believed the self-identified "non-citizen" respondents simply were misidentified either because they were confused or clicked the wrong box on the online survey.
In an article published by The Washington Post, the authors of the study also admitted there was potential for error.
"There are obvious limitations to our research, which one should take account of when interpreting the results. Although the CCES sample is large, the non-citizen portion of the sample is modest, with the attendant uncertainty associated with sampling error. We analyze only 828 self-reported non-citizens. Self-reports of citizen status might also be a source of error."When Ansolabehere spoke to FactCheck.org, he said, "The Richman and Earnest study is an incorrect use of the survey that we manage, and a false claim of evidence of non-citizen voting. It's a dangerous, stray false-fact." When the authors of the ODU study were contacted, they replied, "[We] stand by our study, but we encourage people to read the critiques, too."
Before the election, FactCheck.org also reached out to experts to see what they had to say about Trump's allegations of massive voter fraud.
"[Trump's] allegations are false. Fraud almost never takes place through in-person voting (and certainly not enough to swing an election)," said Heather Gerken, a professor of law at Yale Law School and an election law expert.
"There have been astonishingly few examples, and with good reason. It is far, far, far easier to steal an election by bribing an election official or mail-in/absentee voting. Unsurprisingly, all the evidence of serious fraud concerns the latter sort."So, if Phillips has hard evidence, then it may be the first. The interesting thing to note is that the 3 million illegal alien voters alleged by Phillips is very close to the 2.8 million maximum provided by the study. However, at this time it is impossible to make a direct comparison since the exact methodology for collecting voter data has not been revealed by VoteStand and True The Vote.
Gregg Phillips Claims Illegal Immigrants Can Vote Due To Voter ID LawsOne huge component of the debate is whether or not it's possible for illegal aliens to vote. Republicans favor voter ID laws in order to prevent this scenario, but the ODU study also claimed that "voter photo-identification rules have limited effect on non-citizen participation" due to certain state laws.
"The fact that most non-citizen immigrants who showed identification were subsequently permitted to vote suggests that efforts to use photo-identification to prevent non-citizen voting are unlikely to be particularly effective. This most likely reflects the impact of state laws that permit non-citizens to obtain state identification cards (e.g. driver's licenses)."Gregg Phillips would probably agree with that assessment. In response to comments by other Twitter users, Phillips claimed that liberals and progressives left the doors open for non-citizens to vote due to voter ID laws.Phillips is not alone in his concerns. In recent years, California's voter ID laws became a matter of contention. According to Ballotpedia, the Office of the California Secretary of State stated that "California voters are not required to show identification at their polling place." However, a California "voter may be asked to provide identification at the polls if it is his or her first time voting".
One of the acceptable forms of voter ID in California is a driver's license. The "New Motor Voter Act" passed in October 2015 resulted in over 2.83 million estimated undocumented immigrants becoming capable of receiving driver's licenses. In response, Judge Andrew Napolitano voiced the fear that "an illegal alien in California [can] get a driver's license, register to vote, you can vote in local, state, and federal elections in California and those votes count." However, California has not directly passed any law which directly gives illegal immigrants the right to vote.
Donald Trump's Popular Vote Count ScrutinizedPhillips first claimed that 3 million illegal immigrants voted on November 11, 2016. To put this into perspective, as of this publishing the final vote count for the 2016 election has yet to be finished by all the U.S. states. David Wasserman of Cook Political Report has been maintaining an online spreadsheet with a running tally of the 2016 recount. As of November 15, 2016, Clinton is at 61,964,263 votes, with Trump at 60,961,967 votes.
This means that Hillary Clinton's popular vote count currently has about a 1 million lead on Trump's popular vote. The majority of predictions have Hillary winning the popular vote by around 2 million votes, although this will not change the outcome of the electoral college votes since the majority of uncounted votes are from states that Hillary won like New York and California.
Still, even if Phillips is right that 3 million illegal immigrants voted, the elephant in the room is the 2016 voter turnout. Nearly half of all eligible U.S. voters did not vote, according to The United States Election Project. Out of 231,556,622 in the Voting-Eligible Population (VEP), only 131,018,000 ballots were counted. In comparison to the two previous elections in 2008 and 2012, around 9 million less eligible voters were in the turnout. Why does this matter? Even The Washington Post notes that Trump is potentially right that he could have won a popular vote election if he had managed his campaign strategy differently, never mind if voter turnout was different.
In the end, even if Trump's popular vote is assumed to be higher based upon filtering out potential non-citizen votes, four other presidential candidates besides Hillary Clinton have won the popular vote yet lost the election, so this is not a unique situation. What is a unique situation is the possibility that millions of illegal immigrants successfully voted in 2016. It will be quite interesting to see if the final report from VoteStand and True The Vote proves Phillips' allegations. Stay tuned.
[Featured Image by Patrick Sison/AP Images]