White House Pushes Debunked Fraud Claims In Trump’s Anti-Vote By Mail Crusade

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on May 8, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
May 29, 2020 12:13 p.m.

A federal judge has called the voter fraud claims “misleading” and “inaccurate.”

But that hasn’t stopped top White House aides from tweeting out articles that touted them as part of a larger push to back President Trump’s false statements about vote by mail.

The Thursday tweets from two prominent administration spokespeople linked to articles about voter fraud that relied on a bogus formula that has been pushed by the conservative group, Judicial Watch.

Working with other far-right organizations, Judicial Watch has pushed the claims in court in lawsuits seeking more aggressive voter purges.

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Their cases have typically been dismissed or settled before the claims were fully vetted. But when a federal judge did examine the methodology, she found it not “credible.” In her analysis, she agreed with the points that several election administrators and voting wonks have made in rebuking groups’ claims.

Judicial Watch and other related voter fraud alarmist groups have alleged that dozens of counties are fertile grounds for fraud because they supposedly have a greater number of people on their voter rolls than are actually eligible to vote in the jurisdiction.

Alyssa Farah, the White House director for strategic communications, tweeted Thursday a misleading story claiming – by citing Judicial Watch – that counties across California had more than 100 percent of eligible voters on their rolls. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House Press Secretary who voted by mail in 11 elections, tweeted out a similar article about Los Angeles that depended on the Judicial Watch formula.

The articles insinuated that undocumented immigrants can vote illegally, or that vote-by-mail ballots will be sent to ineligible voters, who will submit them fraudulently.

Neither responded to a TPM inquiry pointing out that Judicial Watch’s methodology had been debunked in court.

To make the allegations, Judicial Watch and its allies rely on an apples-to-oranges comparison. Specifically, they use census data from a rolling survey for one comparison point and for the other, voter registration numbers compiled by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. When the latter number is greater than the former one in the fraction, Judicial Watch and its allied groups target the county with claims that its rolls are illegally bloated.

The formula was picked apart in a case brought by the ACRU, (a group aligned with Judicial Watch) and the judge concluded the comparison was a “misleading” one.

“This is because the sources include different groups of voters from different time periods,” she wrote in the case, which was a challenge brought against Broward County, Florida.

“These data sets do not allow for an accurate comparison,” she said, and noted that the census data underestimate the population of eligible voters, while the voter roll numbers ACRU used was an “inflated” data set.

There are several reasons why the census data tends to lowball the number of people who are actually eligible to vote in a particular jurisdiction. It counts just the people who are physically there within the two-month snapshot of the survey, meaning eligible voters such as students away at college, workers overseas on extended business trips and seasonal residents aren’t included in the count.

For reasons related to how the Census Bureau compiles the eligible voter data the groups use, it’s also often out of date when compared to the EAC voter roll numbers that the groups cite. For instance, in the Broward County case, the ACRU was effectively comparing 2014 voter roll numbers to 2012 population data.

On the flip side, the voter roll data that the conservative groups use in their claims is captured when the registration numbers are at their highest: right before an election. The National Voter Registration Act prohibits list maintenance in the 90 days leading up to an election, and registration generally surges in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

For years, election experts have pointed out to Judicial Watch and to the other conservative groups behind the legal challenges that their methodology is flawed. That hasn’t stopped their crusade in court. In fact the network of groups that use the formula appear to have doubled down their efforts in recent month.

Meanwhile, Trump’s allies — all the way up to the White House — are seizing upon it to spread misinformation about alleged fraud.

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