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Lies, damned lies, and The Donald

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In the first weekend of its existence, the Trump Regime has laid out its basic position relative to reality: It is against it. Or rather, Trump is making a massive gamble, a bet against reality, if you will. His inaugural speech was historic in its promulgation of lies, my favorite being: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.”

If the middle class wants to know where its wealth has been redistributed to, it should ask the guy with his name on all of his buildings. President Trump’s bet is to treat America like one of his real estates. He moans about how worthless and run-down the property is, gets it for a steal (fewer votes than the competition), then plans to give it a cheap facelift, talk it up like a great accomplishment, and enrich himself in the process. But even his damned lies about inaugural crowd size, and similar deceptions that he uses to counter the media’s failure to recognize his greatness, pale in comparison to the “alternative facts” he has created to undermine our electoral integrity, the heart of our democracy.

On Jan. 23, President Trump further embellished a lie that he had tweeted back in November. During a White House reception for congressional leaders, Mr. Trump again claimed that he would have won the popular vote, were it not for 3 million to 5 million people who voted illegally.

There were, in fact, four documented cases of in-person voter fraud in 2016 and a handful of related charges, according to The Washington Post. Just as millions of deaths for Stalin was a “statistic” compared to the tragedy of one, so too millions of illegal votes is hard to get one’s head around. This would be the greatest conspiracy in U.S. electoral history. And it would have happened without a single election official in the country knowing about it, with the exception of a Republican election judge in Illinois, who committed one of the four cases of documented voter fraud. How did our own County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong miss this?

Taking the conservative claim of 3 million illegal votes cast in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California (according to the Trump tweet), and assuming equal rates of illegal voting across states, that would require that more than 2 million of those illegal votes were cast here in California! Two million of the 14.6 million votes actually cast in California is 13.7 percent of votes cast. If 13.7 percent of the votes cast in San Luis Obispo County were illegal, that would mean that more than 19,000 people voted here illegally in November.

There were not 19,000 illegal voters in SLO County in 2016, or even 19. The president of the United States is fabricating “alternative facts” on a scale that can only be described as Stalinesque. On Jan. 24, Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed that the President’s lies were rooted in evidence:

“I think there have been studies; there was one that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who have voted were not citizens. There are other studies that were presented to him.”

First, Spicer is confusing two different studies, a Pew study on voter registration that made no claims about voter fraud, and a study cited in The Monkey Cage, in which only five non-citizen voters were validated, from an original panel sample that reported a 14 percent non-citizen voting rate. Given the error rate of non-citizenship reporting in the survey, and the way the data was used by the Trump team previously, even the authors responded that “the survey data we used provides no way at all to determine whether in fact the outcomes of these races were or were not in fact swayed by non-citizen participation.”

Mr. Gong has been counting votes long enough in SLO County to recognize if 19,000 illegal voters showed up at the polls. First, the California secretary of state validates voter registration with driver’s license and Social Security numbers. Election officials know their registration numbers and the precinct-level voting patterns that they have observed over multiple elections. After the election, when all ballots (absentee, precinct voters, and provisional ballots) have been cast, Mr. Gong, and every other top election official across California counties, audits 1 percent of the ballots through a random selection procedure to check for irregularities.

Voter fraud certainly exists, just like every other kind of fraud, but it is the least of our electoral problems. The only way to make sense of Mr. Trump’s grotesque misrepresentation of facts is to understand that he is enabling and encouraging the imposition of more restrictive voting laws, laws that will make it more difficult for eligible citizens to exercise the right to vote.  

Michael Latner is a political science professor and Master of Public Policy Program director at Cal Poly. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter to the editor at letters@newtimesslo.com.

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