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Lang Waters: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

On June 22 the president claimed, in an all caps tweet, that “millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries and others. It will be the scandal of our times!”

This is one of several lines of attack against mail-in voting that has been debunked.

California elections are the most complicated in the nation. In Nevada County alone there are 54 different versions of the ballot, called “ballot styles,” specific to where a person lives. Vote counting is done by machines that do not recognize ballots from previous elections and they match signatures to voter registrations, kicking back votes that don’t match, which are then manually checked. Counterfeiters must secure the 2020 ballot styles, make a counterfeit that can fool the machine, and then forge each different signature so well that it matches the voter registration card. The sophistication and coordination required to undertake such an effort in Nevada County alone is difficult to imagine. Yet the president tweets constantly as if one can simply print and mail in votes. There are other popular avenues of attack against mail-in ballots.



A 2012 PEW study concluded that roughly “24 million voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.” The sub-title of the study, “Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient,” indicates the major finding regarding our voter registration systems. Our voter registration systems contain inaccuracies and are thus costly and inefficient to administer. Voter registrations become invalid when people move, die, change their name etc. One of the primary reasons for the PEW study, as stated on page three, is the inability of the paper-based voter registration systems to “keep up with voters as they move or die,” which “can lead to problems with the rolls, including the perception that they lack integrity or could be susceptible to fraud.”

Saying something over and over, louder and louder doesn’t make it true.

The perception, not the fact. To leverage invalid voter registrations for massive voter fraud first the inaccurate registrations need to be identified county by county. Then the signatures need to be forged. Can fraud happen this way? Yes. Can it happen on a massive, coordinated, country wide scale unprecedented in the history of the country? No. Invalid registrations as a threat to electoral integrity are a bogeyman meant to frighten. What about real incidents of fraud? They certainly exist.



The Heritage Foundation has a database of 1,290 documented incidents of voter fraud in the U.S. This database is excellent evidence to substantiate the claim that voter fraud in the U.S. is statistically insignificant and vanishingly rare. For the proper perspective on the number of incidents one must know the number of votes cast in every election in which these incidents occurred in order to understand the percentage rate of fraud. The Heritage Foundation does not supply that number. Assume that all 1,290 incidents of fraud occurred in the last presidential election (which they did not). Assume also that every incident resulted in 100 fraudulent votes (which they most certainly did not, most were far less).

129,000 divided by 135,719,982 votes in the 2016 election = 0.000095%. The percentage rate of fraud is infinitesimal.

Are these cases of fraud recent? No. The documented cases go back at least 38 years to 1982. It is not the case that all of these incidents are from last year, or the last five years, or even the last ten years. Now imagine the criminal coordination required to approach 1% fraud. The mind boggles at the sophistication and coordination necessary to have the slightest impact.

Saying something over and over, louder and louder doesn’t make it true. The point that fraud is possible, and the point that our voter registration administration needs improvement are both good points, but they should not frighten us to the extent that we question the integrity of our electoral system. We should be extraordinarily cautious giving weight to opinions trying to discredit the integrity of our system. We will have enough trouble simply counting the mail in ballots in November without cries of fraud.

The president is laying the groundwork for a Constitutional crisis in November. Who right now believes that the president will step down peacefully if he loses? The president invites partisans to elaborate his message, exacerbate divisions and build the support he’ll need to foment a real crisis. Doubt and fear is all he needs. This is the cliff that we’re all headed towards. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Extraordinary evidence of voter fraud does not exist.

Lang Waters lives in Nevada City.


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