Voting Fraud vs. Election Fraud And Claims Of Chicanery In Kentucky

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In a national television appearance on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell knocked down claims of wide scale voting fraud in the presidential election.

While tossing cold water on President Trump’s repeated (and unsubstantiated) claims of fraud impacting the election, McConnell did say that vote fraud is real, it happens, and Kentucky has a history of it.

“… the Democratic myth that voter fraud is a fiction, is not true,” McConnell said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We’ve had a series of significant cases in Kentucky over the years. There is voter fraud in the country.”

Our reporting pals at WAVE-3 in Louisville asked McConnell’s office for details. His office responded with a link to our newsroom’s August 2016 article on Kentucky’s history of vote buying.

So, is McConnell right? Is fraud rampant in Kentucky?

No, not really. The answer is complicated, though, and it boils down to semantics.

Some Republicans, most notably Trump, have pushed the notion of massive voter impersonation, including fake ballots, fake identities, buses of voters crossing state lines and more.

Those actions most definitely fit the definition of voter fraud — if they happened.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes reported zero complaints of voter fraud in the most recent election. In a letter sent last week to Congress, Grimes, who oversees elections in the state, said there is no information that anyone prohibited from casting a vote did so.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said via Twitter that his office “has no evidence of voter fraud” related to the presidential election. He noted that vote buying convictions in recent years did not involve a federal election.

Nonetheless, Kentucky does have a history of vote buying, selling and coercion. Those actions are illegal. Last fall, three people were convicted in federal court of conspiring to buy votes on behalf of candidates running for local office in Magoffin County.

And KyCIR’s R.G. Dunlop has documented several of these cases over the years. But that doesn’t mean fictitious people are casting fake ballots.

Thus, election fraud isn’t the same as voter fraud.

“In the commonwealth, conflating the concept of vote buying with voter impersonation or illegal individuals voting is inaccurate, inconsistent, and the facts simply do not back it up,“ Grimes said in a statement released Wednesday to KyCIR. She called McConnell’s comments disingenuous.

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Donald Trump

Another aspect of the fraud debate centers on voters registered in several states. Some Republicans have cited this as an avenue for fraud, calling it a major problem.

Several of Trump’s top deputies and his spokesman were found to be registered in multiple states. So too was our own Kate Howard, who chronicled her voting registration story last fall. She did not commit fraud. (Read “How I Became An Election Scofflaw”)

The unsubstantiated claims of vote fraud aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. Last week, Trump reignited his allegation, saying, without any evidence, that fraud cost him the popular vote in New Hampshire. He has promised a “major investigation.”

Here is McConnell’s full MSNBC commentary on vote fraud:

There’s no evidence that enough votes were stolen to change the outcome of the election. I do want to point out Joe, though, the Democratic myth that voter fraud is a fiction, is not true. We’ve had a series of significant cases in Kentucky over the years. There is voter fraud in the country.

So the notion that something – for example, like photo ID at the polls is an effort to suppress the vote – is patently absurd. But there is no evidence that there was significant enough voter fraud to affect the outcome of the presidential election.

Here is Grimes’ full statement:

Sen. McConnell’s comments with regard to voter fraud are disingenuous. They are an attempt to lay the groundwork for massive voter suppression efforts not only in the commonwealth but across the nation.

As he rightly admitted, there was no massive voter fraud sufficient to impact the 2016 presidential election, as the president has repeatedly claimed. In the commonwealth, conflating the concept of vote buying with voter impersonation or illegal individuals voting is inaccurate, inconsistent, and the facts simply do not back it up.

KyCIR Managing Editor Brendan McCarthy can be reached at bmccarthy@kycir.org or (502) 814.6541.