- - Monday, February 15, 2021

Last week, during Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, we were told that his offense was “the big lie” that the election was stolen. That “big lie” is responsible for the Jan. 6 riot.

The media continually label claims of any election fraud or significant fraud as “false.” A couple of political science professors at Stanford, Justin Grimmer and Andrew B. Hall, chimed in, claiming no evidence of vote fraud in the 2020 election. They say that they are nonpartisan and that any evidence of vote fraud “fall[s] apart under scrutiny.”

But there is a lot of evidence of significant vote fraud.

The courts have frequently rejected Republican challenges to the 2020 presidential vote because they want evidence that a case involves enough fraud to alter the vote’s outcome in a particular state. Republicans argue that since their observers couldn’t watch the vote count, they can’t provide that evidence and have asked for discovery. Still, while the courts agree irregularities have occurred, they weren’t willing to grant discovery unless Republicans first present enough evidence of fraud to overturn the election. Republicans thus faced a kind of catch-22.

Mr. Grimmer and Mr. Hall’s opinion piece in The Washington Times makes two primary claims: There is no evidence of vote fraud with absentee ballots and that my research has a fatal fraud.

Regarding absentee ballots, they argue that they didn’t find much evidence of dead people voting by absentee ballots in 2018. While that does occur, that is hardly the focus of most vote fraud. But the biggest fraud problems involve requesting absentee ballots on voters’ behalf without their permission. Ballots sent to addresses where the registered voter no longer lives. Ballot harvesting, even in states where it is illegal. Pressuring people to vote a particular way. These are all much more difficult to detect than dead people voting.

Of course, fraud changed many election results. But with states not even checking signatures this past year, fraud was much easier in 2020.

Concerns over fraud with absentee ballots aren’t something limited to delusional Republicans in the United States. Indeed, almost all European countries have much stricter voting rules to prevent fraud. For example, 74% of European countries entirely ban absentee voting for citizens who live in their country. 

Another 6% allow it, but have very restrictive rules, such as limiting it to those in the military or are in a hospital, and they require evidence for this. Another 15% allow absentee ballots but require that one present a photo voter ID to acquire it. The pattern is similar for developed countries around the world. Many of these countries used to allow absentee ballots until they discovered massive fraud.

Given all the concerns about vote fraud with absentee ballots, why did Democrats push to have absentee ballots counted without verifying signatures? Why did Democratic counties go to such efforts to keep observers from observing either the opening of absentee ballots or their counting? In courts, such actions are allowed as evidence and referred to as evidence of a “guilty mind.”

Messrs. Grimmer and Hall mischaracterize my research. They discuss only one of the three types of evidence that I provide. I compared voting precincts in a county with alleged fraud to adjacent similar precincts in neighboring counties with no fraud allegations.

In measuring the difference in President Trump’s vote share of the absentee ballots for these adjacent precincts, we account for the difference in his vote share of the in-person voting and the difference in registered voters’ demographics. Their claimed “fatal flaw” was easily fixed. The evidence points toward fraud but is often not statistically significant.

Vote fraud can also lead to increased voter turnout. Increased fraud can take many forms: higher rates of filling out absentee ballots for people who hadn’t voted, dead people voting, ineligible people voting, or even increased payments to encourage legally registered people to vote. 

I found that while heavily Republican counties had a much higher turnout this election compared to 2016, heavily Democratic counties generally didn’t. The exception was in heavily Democratic counties where vote fraud was alleged to occur. Even after accounting for county demographics, my estimates indicate statistically significant 70,000 to 79,000 “excess” votes in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Adding in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin, the total increases to up to 289,000 excess votes.

There was also strong evidence that voters in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, were allowed to correct defects in absentee ballots using a provisional ballot on Election Day — implying an additional 6,700 votes for Joe Biden.

Multiple times Messrs. Grimmer and Hall claim that they are nonpartisan. But Mr. Grimmer argues that Texas voter IDs, even though they are offered for free, should be struck down by the courts. Mr. Hall has been an advocate for the Democrats pushing for greatly expanded absentee ballots, without even looking at whether in-person voting spread COVID-19 (it didn’t).

Let’s hope that Americans don’t take self-proclaimed nonpartisan experts at their word and that they look at the evidence. But dismissing concerns of vote fraud and not even allowing simple fixes such as voter IDs is itself a form of voter suppression, as it leads voters to believe that their votes don’t count.

• John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. While he was the senior adviser for research and statistics at the Department of Justice, he also did research on vote fraud in the November 2020 election.

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