President-elect Donald Trump over the weekend alleged via Twitter that “serious voter fraud” took place in California and other states on Election Day.
State and local officials say that isn't true, with some calling Trump's accusation an outright fabrication. “Trump's voter-fraud claim is not just a lie — it could lead to massive expansion in already existing voter-suppression efforts,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said via Twitter.
The allegation came as the Green Party's 2016 presidential candidate, Jill Stein, filed for presidential vote recounts in battleground states Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. She said she also plans to file for a recount in Michigan. All three states, which favored President Obama in the past, narrowly went to Trump and helped deliver him the presidency via the Electoral College — even as Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.2 million ballots.
Trump argued that Clinton's popular vote lead would be erased if fraudulent ballots in places such as California, Virginia and New Hampshire were thrown out. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide,” he said via Twitter, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
If voter fraud in excess of 2 million ballots took place, California indeed would have to be at the epicenter of it. The state alone could have given Clinton her popular-vote victory; she won California by 3.9 million votes and counting, according to Secretary of State data. And reports have interpreted Trump's claim to mean that many if not most of those allegedly fraudulent votes came from people here illegally.
Los Angeles County so far has cast about 3.2 million of the state's 13,668,600 Election Day votes. An estimated 1 million people of the county's 10 million population are undocumented.
Dean C. Logan, L.A. County's Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, called Trump's allegation “shocking” and argued that undocumented Angelenos would have taken a huge risk if they voted illegally. “It's high-risk knowingly casting a ballot when you know you're not eligible,” he said in a phone interview. “It's a crime. And it could hurt their ability to become a citizen.”
In a statement, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a former L.A. City Council member, also described Trump's claim as outlandish: “It appears that Mr. Trump is troubled by the fact that a growing majority of Americans did not vote for him. His unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in California and elsewhere are absurd. His reckless tweets are inappropriate and unbecoming of a president-elect.”
Nonpartisan factcheckers have called the idea of widespread voter fraud, particularly on the part of the undocumented, a myth. Logan is concerned that, against a backdrop of increasing voter apathy, the allegation will further dissuade people from getting to the polls on Election Day.
“I think it's important we send a message to the voters and speak up to the integrity of our process,” he says. “We don't want these broad-based allegations to further deter the public's confidence in the election process.”
Cristóbal J. Alex, president of Latino Victory Fund, said in a statement that Trump needs to be called out for his claims.
“The president-elect of the United States should not be casting doubts or spreading lies about the election results, but then again this isn’t the first time that Trump cries wolf on voter fraud,” he said. “Members of the media should call out Trump for these baseless claims and hold him to the standards of the highest office in the land.”