Roy Moore's Trumpian Conspiracy Theorizing About Voter Fraud
The president wants the Alabama loser to concede. But using Trump's own (fake) voter-fraud math, he shouldn't.
Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lamented that the concession speech from losing Alabama Republican senate candidate Roy Moore "should have already taken place." This morning, President Donald Trump said that "I think he should" concede. This makes obvious sense, in light of the 1.44-percentage-point lead that Democrat Doug Jones has in the unofficial results, well over the 0.5-point difference that triggers a recount according to Alabama law. Ever since Tuesday night, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill—a Moore supporter—has emphasized that it's "highly unlikely" the ballots will be counted again.
But Moore's "the battle rages on" intransigence makes all the sense in the world when judged by the example set by Trump himself.
Trump, you'll recall, made the baseless charge three weeks after the 2016 presidential election that "millions of people voted…illegally." In January, he narrowed that figure down to between three million and five million illegal votes. If true—and it isn't—that would mean that between 2.2 percent and 3.7 percent of all votes cast were fraudulent (and monolithically in favor of the Democrat).
What happens if you run those same numbers on the Alabama Senate race? Why, Roy Moore has a case! The margin between the top two finishers was 20,715 votes; an illegal voting rate of 2.2 to 3.7 percent would amount to between 29,615 and 49,807 fraudulent ballots cast. Stand tall, Roy!
Sadly, Trump's flippant conspiracy theorizing about polling integrity has more than just a cultural influence on the right. The president has made it the basis for his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a garbage fire of an advisory board whose vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is the leading voter-fraud fabulist in the country. Kobach, who is currently running for governor with the support of the president's son, has had ample opportunity to act upon his startling contention that "the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive" in his state. And yet, according to Mother Jones,
in 2015 he became the only secretary of state in the country with the power to personally prosecute voter fraud cases. Since then, Kobach's office has convicted just nine people for illegal voting, out of 1.8 million registered voters in the state. Only one of them was a non-citizen. The other eight were citizens who voted in two different states, and most of them were over 60 years old, owned property in both places, and were confused about voting requirements.
Among Kobach's bad ideas for the country is a massive federal database of voters (what could go wrong?). The commission is being riddled by lawsuits, including, remarkably, by one of its own members, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (read Dunlap's Washington Post explainer for a snapshot of Trumpian amateurishness).
So yes, Roy Moore and his supporters are making fools of themselves spreading hoaxes and indulging in dark fantasies about voter fraud. But such pathologies have a seat in the same White House urging him to concede, and still threaten to convert conspiracy theory into federal election law.