After claiming for the majority of his first year in the White House that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, President Trump on Wednesday abolished the commission he formed to investigate the unproven matter.
Shortly after exit polls revealed that rival Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote, the then-president-elect rejected the results. “In addition to winning the electoral college in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted.
The Washington Post’s John Wagner reported that the panel’s disbanding was a sizable blow to Trump’s case that he actually won the popular vote:
“The decision is a major setback for Trump, who created the commission last year in response to his claim, for which he provided no proof, that he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 because of millions of illegally cast ballots.
The commission met only twice amid the series of lawsuits seeking to curb its authority and claims by Democrats that it was stacked to recommend voting restrictions favorable to the president’s party.”
But lack of evidence of voter fraud in the 2016 election hasn’t stopped Republicans from bringing up the issue in more recent elections.
Former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who Trump endorsed, has claimed that voter fraud was responsible for his loss to now-Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.
Before Jones was certified as the winner, Moore filed a legal complaint alleging “election fraud” and asked the state to consider holding a new election.
In the complaint, filed in state court, Moore’s campaign argued that Alabama would “suffer irreparable harm if the election results are certified … without preserving and investigating all the evidence of potential fraud.”
Among Moore’s claims is that high voter turnout in some of the state’s most predominantly black counties raised suspicion.
And in the recent Virginia elections, Republicans seemed to imply that voter fraud was still a major issue in elections — but were only able to point to a single example.
“We asked the three Republicans on the statewide ballot — Ed Gillespie, the gubernatorial candidate; Jill Vogel, the lieutenant gubernatorial candidate; and John Adams, the attorney general candidate — if they believed voter fraud was rampant in the state. None gave a straightforward answer; all three mentioned the isolated case of an undergraduate at James Madison University who filed 18 falsified voter registration forms last year, none of which resulted in a fraudulent vote being cast.”
The outcome of the Virginia elections overwhelmingly favored Democratic candidates, in part because of large turnout from black voters, who historically vote against Republican politicians.
Jamil Smith, a Los Angeles Times opinion writer, said voter fraud is a weapon Republicans use when they cannot accept that they did not win the popular vote.
This was never a “voter fraud panel,” really. It sought to develop strategies for suppressing the vote. It seems that outside pressure forced @POTUS to kill it, though we can’t take his word on that. No matter the reason, this is a welcome development. https://t.co/ZWm0B5mKII
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) January 4, 2018
But the dissolution of Trump’s voting panel did get some praise from his own party: namely Sen. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.), who has been one of the GOP’s loudest Trump critics.
This dissolution is good news. This commission was based on a falsehood – that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 elections https://t.co/GSxV5pkPz5
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) January 4, 2018
Neither Trump nor other Republicans have been able to prove that illegal votes swayed the most recent elections. And it appears that their efforts to do so continue to hit dead ends. But continuing the falsehood that illegal votes from people of color influenced recent elections may hurt the Republican Party’s effort to woo black and Latino voters, blocs that they probably will need in this year’s elections.