The Republican-nominated chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent, bipartisan agency, said that voter fraud is “not widespread” and “not an epidemic” while simultaneously playing down concerns about voter suppression.
“The reality—and this data and information comes from those who directly run elections—is that the state and local election officials, and specifically the secretaries of state across the country that looked into it, find that fraud happens,” Matthew Masterson said in an interview with the Center for Public Integrity posted Thursday.
“It’s not widespread. It’s not an epidemic,” he continued. “But where it happens, it needs to be identified and prosecuted.”
His comments come after President Donald Trump claimed without evidence that millions of people voted illegally in the presidential election. The allegation prompted fear among voting rights advocates who worry unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud will be used as cover to pass restrictive voting measures that make it harder for certain populations, particularly minorities and low-income people, to vote.
Masterson (pictured above on the right), who was named the chairman of the commission in February, was appointed to the commission in 2014 by President Obama on the recommendation of then-House Speaker John Boehner. Prior to that, Masterson worked in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office; his boss there, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, was the target of multiple lawsuits that claimed Ohio sought to disenfranchise voters by cutting early voting, purging the voting rolls and imposing strict rules on provisional ballots.
The Center for Public Integrity asked Masterson if voter suppression was a big issue and whether there was evidence of a major effort to make it harder to vote.
“It’s something election officials hear about all the time. I can tell you my experience in Ohio. When we dug into that. It was virtually non-existent,” Masterson said, later adding: “It is my opinion, in the vast majority of jurisdictions today in America, it is easier to vote today than it has ever been.”