President Donald Trump has been obsessed with the idea that mail-in voting encourages voter fraud, and his campaign has filed lawsuits against Pennsylvania and other states because of their plans to encourage voters to use mail-in ballots in November’s election. Journalist Richard Salame, in The Intercept, reports that in response to the Pennsylvania lawsuit, Trump’s campaign was asked to show proof that voting by mail encourages voter fraud — and it was unable to.
Salame notes that Trump’s campaign is “suing Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar and each of the state’s county election boards to prevent election administrators from providing secure drop boxes for mail-in ballot returns.” Two of the groups that support voting by mail in Pennsylvania, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future and the Sierra Club, asked the Trump campaign to demonstrate that there is a connection between mail-in voting and voter fraud — and Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan granted their motion, asking the campaign to “produce such evidence in their possession, and if they have none, state as much.”
The Trump campaign produced a 524-page document in response to Ranjan’s request, and The Intercept obtained a copy. According to Salame, the document “contains a few scant examples of election fraud” — but none of them actually involve mail-in ballots.
The non-redacted portion of the Trump campaign’s response consists in large part of news reports and copies of the campaign’s open records requests to counties. It contains no new evidence of fraud beyond what local news outlets have previously reported. The examples of fraud that it does provide include the case of four poll workers who admitted to harassment and intimidation of voters at one polling place during a special election in 2017. It also includes an election judge who altered vote totals in his polling place between 2014 and 2016 at the behest of a political consultant. And while the amended complaint brought by the campaign cites a few incidents of mail-in fraud, none were mentioned in the discovery document.
This is far from the first time that Republicans have failed to substantiate their frequent claims that voter fraud is a persistent problem in American elections. In 2018, one of U.S.’s most prominent crusaders against voter fraud, then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was asked by a district court to produce evidence that noncitizens were voting in his home state of Kansas. Kobach brought forth witnesses, but their testimony fell apart on cross examination. Judge Julie Robinson wrote in her opinion that “evidence that the voter rolls include ineligible citizens is weak. At most, 39 [non]citizens have found their way onto the Kansas voter rolls in the last 19 years.” The rare known cases of voter fraud were not the tip of the iceberg, she concluded, “there is no iceberg; only an icicle, largely created by confusion and administrative error.”
Another group opposing Trump’s campaign in the lawsuit is Common Cause PA. Salame quotes Suzanne Almeida, the group’s interim director, as saying, “Not only did the campaign fail to provide evidence that voter fraud was a widespread problem in Pennsylvania — they failed to provide any evidence that any misconduct occurred in the primary election or that so-called voter fraud is any sort of regular problem in Pennsylvania.”