President Donald Trump renewed his claims about voter fraud during a congressional meeting earlier this week and is now calling for a “major investigation” on the issue.
After losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in November, Trump has made various baseless allegations of voter fraud in the election.
But Michael McDonald, an associate professor of political science at UF who researches voter turnout, told WUFT News after an interview on CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello this morning that issues of voter fraud typically come up in local elections, not federal ones.
“Turnout is much lower” in local elections, he said, “and the opportunity then to swing the election through some sort of fraudulent activity is much greater.”
If there is voter fraud, McDonald said, it’s “very narrow, localized and aimed at trying to influence a local election, not a presidential election.”
“Usually when this happens, it’s a candidate either doing some sort of absentee-ballot scheme where they’re collecting ballots or requesting for people and then voting in their name,” he said.
McDonald highlighted a main root of such problems: “deadwood,” or people with obsolete records who have moved away or died.
These people remain registered voters even if they moved away because of a federal law that says people do not need to re-register to vote every year.
“We have to have some evidence that those people actually moved and they’re not just abstaining from the election,” McDonald said.
Federal voting laws do not require re-registration unless a voter “has not voted or appeared to vote in 2 or more consecutive general elections for Federal office.”
The Help America Vote Act in 2002, which launched statewide voter files, has aided election officials with tracking. The act made it easier for them to track and update a registrant if she or he moved from one residence to another across the county line.
One solution to deadwood — and one that would help legitimate voters overall — is to have a national identification card, McDonald said.
Proper identification is an issue, he said, because many voters — either young adults who don’t drive yet or seniors who don’t anymore — do not have a valid driver’s license.
“About 10 percent of the population doesn’t have the required identification in order to vote,” he said. “If you look at other democracies in the world, they have a national identification card.”
These cards are sometimes used for voter registration, among other things, but the U.S. does not have such a system. McDonald suggested that if there is an expansive program to provide proper identification for all citizens, voter-fraud allegations may decrease.