Trump Says 58,000 Texans Voted Illegally. Here's What Actually Happened.

The president of the United States is once again spreading unsubstantiated claims about rampant voter fraud and undermining faith in the integrity of our democracy. This time, he’s claiming that 95,000 noncitizens were registered to vote in Texas and more than half have actually voted. These numbers, he concluded, are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s tweets are in need of a serious fact-check. Here’s what is actually happening in Texas.

On Friday, the Texas secretary of state announced that he was sending local election officials a list of registered voters who had been flagged because, at some point, they purportedly had provided a document indicating they were a noncitizen — like a green card or work visa — while obtaining a driver’s license or ID card from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Among the people on the list, about 58,000 people may have cast a ballot in one or more elections from 1996-2018, according to the secretary of state.

Here’s the catch: Texas doesn’t actually know that the voters flagged are the same people who appear to be noncitizens. In fact, in its own advisory, the secretary of state’s office emphasized that all names were classified as “WEAK” matches, meaning that it is entirely up to the county whether or not they take action to purge these individuals from the rolls.

Even if they are accurate matches, Texas doesn’t know that the people are still noncitizens. Each year, between 52,000 and 63,000 Texans naturalize as U.S. citizens. Comparing current voter rolls with documents that people provided in the past, some more than 20 years ago, fails to account for people who became U.S. citizens at any time after they first obtained a state ID or driver’s license.

Texas driver licenses and ID cards also do not expire for a full six years after they are issued, so the odds are high that tens of thousands of people on the list of flagged voters are, in fact, eligible to vote. Given the flawed nature of this methodology, yesterday the ACLU of Texas and partners notified the Texas secretary of state that the advisory should be rescinded before any counties take action on it, and put all 254 counties in Texas on alert that they should not take action based on this advisory alone and must ensure that they do not act discriminatorily or infringe on the right to vote.

Unfortunately, these huge caveats did not stop Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from tweeting out the news in all-caps, “VOTER FRAUD ALERT,” nor President Trump from declaring that “all over the country, especially in California, voter fraud is rampant.” 

We’ve heard these types of claims before. 

In 2012, the ACLU took on this issue in Florida when election authorities claimed to have identified around 180,000 noncitizens who were registered to vote. These numbers collapsed under scrutiny: The initial 180,000 estimate was whittled to 2,625 possible noncitizens on the rolls, just over 1 percent of the original claim. That list was also riddled with errors, and ultimately only 85 people were removed from the rolls, out of a total of about 12 million voters at the time. 

In 2018, a Pennsylvania review of the state’s voter rolls found about 8,000 noncitizens on the rolls, a sizeable population. The culprit? A software glitch at the DMV that inadvertently registered individuals who had identified themselves as noncitizens. And as significant as that DMV error was, it ultimately implicated less than .01 percent of the eight million registered voters in the state.

The bottom line: Voter fraud is extremely rare. States using unreliable data to justify purges of eligible voters, however, is not. In fact, Texas has already begun walking back its claims, telling counties today that there are individuals who should not have been included on this list. 

While Texas should be learning from the lessons of Florida and Pennsylvania, there are signs that they may be taking cues from Kansas instead. As reported by The Texas Tribune, the Texas Legislature may take up proposals this session to require voters to show proof of citizenship in order to register.

Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state and one of the leading proponents of the voter fraud myth, championed a law in 2013 that required people to show citizenship documents, like a passport or birth certificate, in order to register to vote. From 2013-2016, the law blocked more than 35,000 eligible Kansans from registering.

Kobach claimed the law was necessary to stop noncitizens voting, and yet at trial, he was only able to identify 39 noncitizens — out of 1.8 million Kansas voters — who registered to vote over a nearly 20-year period. He was not able to show that these instances constituted intentional cases of fraud, rather than mistakes stemming from clerical errors. Regardless, Kobach also claimed that these numbers represent “just the tip of the iceberg.” 

If Texas is intent on following in Kobach’s failed footsteps, they should remember just that — it failed spectacularly.

View comments (33)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

^^^ This has been brought to you by faux entertainment shows.....faux propaganda machine.

Anonymous

Shame on Ken Paxton. He is an embarrassment to my state as is Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick.

Anonymous

There is no legitimate reason for not having every voter provide official goverernment issued identification every time they vote. And every state should provide the federal government an accurate list of legally registered voters and voters that actually cast a ballot in order for those lists to be crosschecked against one another. Why would anyone be against verifying that only legal citizens are voting and/or that they only voting ONCE in each election? Shouldn't the ACLU being doing more to protect that right?

Anonymous

Firstly, non-citizen voting is extremely rare, despite the falsehoods repeated by the GOP on the subject. Americans have not always had state identification, so requiring one to vote is not necessary.

Requiring ID to cast a vote would only be lawful, democratic, and fair, if all voting-aged adults were required by law to carry a photo ID on them at all times. Many Americans do not have an id accepted for voting — 11% of U.S. citizens (more than 21 million Americans) do not have a government-issued photo identification. These folks are disproportionately low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

LG

It’s important to note that Republicans fight to keep private gun sellers from being required to see an id and complete a background check of the people purchasing a gun, despite gun-related deaths killing 40,000 people last year — the highest number since 1996. Reps claim this fight is about protecting the civil liberties of these folks, but Republicans happily drop this strong personal civil liberties stance when it comes to impeding the voting rights of certain groups of Americans — groups who just happen to historically vote democrat more often than not.

Anonymous

The right to vote is guaranteed to all American Citizens. Any law that prohibits a citizen from voting is therefore unconstitutional and a violation of that person's rights.

There are citizens that are simply too poor to have a government ID and also can't afford to get a copy of their birth certificate.

Further, Trump's "Voter Fraud Commission" disbanded over a year ago having found no evidence of any wide spread voter fraud.

Your fears are unfounded and your solution is unconstitutional. And the courts disagree with you.

So stop crying snowflake

Lisa

Well you should learn about the process of registration to actually being able to vote, then you should learn how difficult it is to present yourself fraudulently to actually vote even without an id or multiple times. The aclu isn’t going after that issue because, and let me use a phrase you’ll be familiar with and understand, but they don’t because that’s a big nothing burger. But let me ask you, since you’re so concerned about protecting the voting rights of citizens, how have you taken up the cause for citizens that have their ability to vote blocked by f*ckery many of the states are doing? There’s literally tens of thousands of American citizens who have been kicked off registrations because of sneaky politics, and if we’re being honest, usually by Republican run state governments. So what are YOU doing to secure their right?

Rebecca Ortiz

If there was any real evidence that this were an actual problem then I might be on board with you. But since there is not, what you suggest would be a huge waste of time and resources. Time and resources that could be spent fighting gerrymandering and registering new voters.

Anonymous

Not every individual has a valid government-issued ID. Especially among the poor, they jave never had reason to take time out of their day and pay travrl expenses to obtain an ID. Any measure requiring an ID to vote should be preceded by a massive campaign to supply every voter with a valid ID. Hogher mpre clerks to process more applicants and extend office hours into evenings and weekends to accomodate those that can't take time off of work.

Any measure that disenfranchises more people than it the fraud votes it blocks (and there is very little fraud) is a sham.

Anonymous

The only way Democrats win elections is to cheat, with the help of organizations like ACLU. Voter fraud, gerrymandering, and now messing with electoral college. 12 states passing laws that honor popular vote. Unconstitutional!

Pages

Stay Informed