The election was decided months ago, the electoral college have cast their votes, and President Trump has been inaugurated. He won. It’s over. But that hasn’t stopped the petulant child from insisting that he lost the popular vote (an inconsequential metric) because millions of votes were cast illegally. It’s one of the boldest claims Trump has made yet. There have been numerous studies conducted that haven’t found any proof of widespread voter fraud. Some have found a potential for abuse but nothing more. That’s not why it’s a ridiculous claim though. Nationwide mass voter fraud doesn’t occur because it is not a rational action for an individual to take.
The reason that millions of people don’t vote illegally is simple: risk versus reward. The risk of punishment for committing voter fraud is great, the reward is not. Penalties for different types of illegal voting vary but almost always include prison sentences and excessive fines. Compare that to the reward of one illegally cast vote. One vote is inconsequential in an election wherein over a hundred million votes are cast. No rational actor would risk federal prison time in order to vote illegally because they would know it wouldn’t amount to anything. Therefore, the idea that millions of people acted irrationally and voted illegally is just as preposterous.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that an election was incredibly close and a small number of votes could make a difference. New Hampshire was the closest swing state of the 2016 election. The state and its four electoral votes went to Hillary Clinton by only 2,700 votes. Of course, it may seem like voter fraud could have determined that election, but that’s simply a case of 20:20 hindsight. No one knew beforehand it would be that close. In 2012 President Obama won the state by nearly forty thousand votes. Furthermore, even if one were to know that it would be close, one vote still wouldn’t have made a difference. Finally, even if one vote did tip the scales there, four electoral votes wouldn’t have given Clinton the Presidency.
In order to have any effect at all on an national electoral outcome, illegal voting would have to be organized by the hundreds of thousands across several states. There’s simply no evidence of that occurring. It would be a massive undertaking to find hundreds of thousands of people willing to risk jail time and fines in order to attempt to change the outcome of an election. There would need to be a multi-state conspiracy involving thousands of staff who would all have to be counted on to keep the operation secret. The problem with this is people don’t keep secrets very well. Not only would the hundreds of thousands of illegal voters be tempted to leak or confess if caught but so would the operators.
Therefore, with individual actors and conspiracies ruled out, the only plausible way that millions of ballots were cast illegally is through sheer ignorance. If illegal aliens were allowed to register to vote in states like California and New York it is possible they could have cast ballots without knowing they were doing so illegally. It would necessarily be unwillingly given that it’s incredibly likely any illegal immigrant would risk a federal crime and deportation just to vote in an election. Even if this was the case, if a million illegal votes were cast in California and New York it wouldn’t change the electoral college as those states went Democrat by twenty points anyway.
Unfortunately for President Trump and his bruised ego, the idea that millions of people voted illegally is irrational, impractical, and even if it were possible, it would prove inconsequential. Voter fraud did not cost Donald Trump the popular vote nor could it have influenced the election.
Of course, Republicans already know this. They don’t care about the popular vote or Donald Trump’s feels. They’re just trying to drum up support for a national voter identification bill. With the hysteria that Trump has already stirred among the Republican base, that bill is likely just around the corner.