President Donald Trump has made it clear that despite his electoral college victory, he believes he would’ve also received a popular vote victory (or at least would’ve lost it by a lesser margin) had it not been for voter fraud. While there’s no question that voter fraud indeed occurs, there is a lively debate as to its extent.
One of the few studies on the topic, titled “Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections?” was published in the journal Electoral Studies in 2014. According to the results, the number of non-citizens who voted illegally in the 2008 election ranged “from just over 38,000 at the very minimum to nearly 2.8 million at the maximum.” It goes without saying that’s an enormous margin of error.
Even if we assume the lowest estimate, it’s still enough illegal voters to turn an election if they were to be concentrated in a key swing state, such as with Bush vs. Gore, where Florida (and with it, the election) was decided by only 537 votes. Overall, there’s much more potential for voter fraud to sway local elections than national ones, hence the reason it’s individual states and counties implementing voter ID laws, not the Federal government.
One particularly controversial voter ID law is one Texas implemented in 2011, which the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year (upholding prior rulings) that the types of photo identification the law requires don’t comply with the Voting Rights Act. Among the acceptable forms of photo ID were “a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, or a U.S citizenship certificate with a photo,” placing them among the States with voter ID laws and the least amount of ID options.
Consistent with the Trump administration’s strong stance on voter fraud (real or perceived), the Justice Department just announced that the federal government will be dropping its opposition to Texas’ ID law.
BREAKING: Attorneys: Trump administration says it will drop federal government's opposition to strict Texas voter ID law.
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 27, 2017
According to The Houston Chronicle:
The U.S. Justice Department under President Donald Trump is abandoning its six-year-old claim that Texas’ voter ID law was enacted with intent to discriminate against minorities, signaling a reversal from the government’s posture under former President Barack Obama.
The about face comes on the eve of Tuesday’s scheduled hearing before U.S. District Court judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi. It also comes a week after the Justice Department and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had asked for a delay in the case because the state Legislature is considering changes to the law, which the federal courts have already found to be discriminatory.
A Justice Department spokesman said a motion to drop the claim of discriminatory intent would be filed later Monday. The state has denied all allegations of a discriminatory purpose.
The decision sent shock waves through legal rights groups that had partnered with the government in challenging the 2011 voter ID law. Some had warned that the Justice Department under incoming U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was opposed by many civil rights groups, would retreat from the Obama administration’s aggressive push against state photo ID requirements, which critics say are designed to make it more difficult for minorities to vote.
“We’re absolutely outraged,” said Danielle Lang, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center, one of several groups involved in the multi-year legal battle over the Texas voter ID law, one of several passed by Republican-controlled states around the nation. “There haven’t been any changes in the facts…Nothing has changed except for Jeff Sessions is running the Department of Justice.”
As recently as November, Obama administration lawyers had filed briefs in the case seeking a finding of “discriminatory intent” by the Texas Legislature. Lang said a consortium of civil and legal rights groups will continue to press the case seeking legal remedies for what they allege was intentional discrimination in passage of the 2011 law.
The Justice Department is expected to officially lay out their new position during a hearing tomorrow. AG Jeff Sessions favors voter ID laws, but specifies only those “properly drafted.” The overwhelming amount of voters agree across the political spectrum, with 80 percent support for voter ID laws, and only 18 percent opposed.
No matter how this is spun — an “historic” or “controversial” move — what other issue has an 80 percent consensus?
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]