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January 31, 2017 · OPINION

We need to investigate potential voter fraud

By Lee Smith

Political pundits will tell you what they want you to believe. In many cases, they have not studied what they are telling you but are basing their facts on what other political pundits have said.

On the other hand, scientists will analyze the facts and then publish how they conducted the analysis and what conclusions they have reached. Fortunately, Jesse Richman is an esteemed political science professor at Virginia’s Old Dominion University who has published a very detailed and cross referenced study on the issue of non-citizen voter fraud.

In 2014, Dr. Richman published the study, “Do Non-Citizens Vote in U.S. Elections?” The study was based on data “… from the 2008 and 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Studies, based on the files released by Stephen Ansolabehere (2010, 2011).” Dr. Ansolabehere has been a professor at the Department of Government, Harvard University since 2008. From 1998-2009, he was the Elting Morison Professor in the Department of Political Science at MIT.

In other words, Dr. Richman, a lifelong academic political scientist, has seriously looked at the issue of non-citizen voter fraud using very detailed data that was published by Dr. Ansolabehere, another lifelong academic political scientist. These gentlemen have worked hard and long to become professionals in the field of understanding political science.

There are two foundational facts in the Dr. Richman academic publication:

• There are roughly 19.4 million non-citizens in the United States.

• Roughly 25 percent of the 19.4 million non-citizens, on the high end, were likely registered to vote.

My basic simple math says that means 4.85 million non-citizens are likely registered to vote.

However, the most astonishing is the following conclusion by Dr. Richman: “We find that some non-citizens participate in U.S. elections, and that this participation has been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes, and Congressional elections. Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress.”

He further categorically stated that “…the analysis suggests that non-citizens’ votes have changed significant election outcomes including the assignment of North Carolina’s 2008 electoral votes, and the pivotal Minnesota Senate victory of Democrat Al Franken in 2008.”

Sen. Franken won by only 312 votes, and there is substantial evidence that far more than the 312 votes in the margin of victory were cast by non-citizen voters. Dr. Richman further concluded that in the 2008 and 2010 U.S. elections, non-citizen voters favored Democratic candidates. “In 2008 [non-citizens surveyed] 66.7 percent reported voting for the Democratic House candidate, while only 20.8 percent reported voting for the Republican candidate. 81.8 percent reported voting for Barack Obama compared to 17.5 percent for John McCain.”

There is a local impact to Virginia, included in the study by Dr. Richman. He concluded that the 2008 Virginia 5th Congressional District 5 (the district then contained, among others, Charlottesville, Bedford, Danville and Martinsville) was likely a Democratic victory by 727 votes due to the possible non-citizen vote of 6.94 percent. Keep in mind that this is 6.94 percent of the potential 25 percent of the non-citizens average in our country that may be registered to vote.

Now, you may say that the national and cable news channels have been reporting that the Dr. Richman study has been “debunked.” However, in the Washington Post Monkey Cage section on Nov. 2, 2014, Dr. Richman vehemently disputed that claim:

“Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections? Our blog post and article on non-citizen voting have reached a wide audience, and have motivated several efforts to dispute our methods and conclusions. Although the criticisms of our work speak to the inherent difficulty of studying individuals who face strong pressures to misrepresent their behaviors, we maintain that our data is the best currently available to answer the question and stand by our finding that some non-citizens have voted in recent elections (emphasis added).”

How widespread is voter fraud? In a recent Fox News opinion piece, it was reported that, “The Washington Post conducted a poll last October using the Pollfish firm that found 84 percent of Republicans believe that a ‘meaningful amount’ of voter fraud occurs in U.S. elections, along with 75 percent of independents. A majority of Democrats — 52 percent — also believed there was meaningful voter fraud. When it came to types of fraud, nearly 60 percent of Republicans told Pollfish they believed illegal immigrants were voting, but so too did a third of independents and a quarter of Democrats.”

Finally, in that Fox News opinion piece, it was also reported that in 2011 Fairfax County reported to the U.S. Justice Department that voter fraud had occurred:

“In 2011, the Electoral Board in Fairfax County, Va., sent the Justice Department, under then-Attorney General Eric Holder, information about 278 noncitizens registered to vote in Fairfax County, about half of whom had cast ballots in previous elections. There’s no record of anything being done.”

My advice is to pay attention to the facts. Facts do matter. In that regard, it does look like we need an investigation. With very limited exceptions, non-citizen voting is illegal in all 50 states. For each non-citizen illegal vote cast, a citizen vote is cancelled. We may be afraid and apprehensive of the answer, as apparently some are, but our democracy demands an answer
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Traverse · February 8, 2017 at 7:18 pm
Low on who's priority list? It's at the top of mine. The problem is BJ, most on the left don't want to even check to see if there is voter fraud. They deem that it just isn't so, despite how easy it is for non citizens to get on the rolls. Then, when someone insists on checking, they try to shut down the process by calling those who want to investigate, xenophobic or worse. I'm sure court dockets across the nation will be choked with frivoluse law suits by liberals to try and stop anyone from taking an honest look at this potentially huge problem.

And when and if they do find ineligible voters on the rolls, do you think the left will join the right to remove and prosecute these criminals, or will they accuse the right of somthing hate related, and continue to block thier efforts? I think we all know the answer to that hypothetical question.

Let's just take an honest look at this... and see where the evidence leads us.
BJ · February 8, 2017 at 10:20 am
Where is the indignation on Disability Fraud, Insurance Fraud, Tax Fraud, Banking Fraud, Welfare Fraud, Charity Fraud, Online Pharmacy Fraud, Pyramid Scheme Fraud, Religious Fraud (TV preachers), Identity Fraud? It's happening over and over in this country, including Fauquier County. Voter fraud is just plain wrong, and yes it should be corrected, but right now that is the low on the priority list. If there is a problem let's get it right before the next election. Blaine Johnson
BJ · February 7, 2017 at 5:47 pm
President Trump is sitting in the White House. What is his problem? Low self-esteem and a narcissistic personality come to mind. How much is the voter investigations costing the taxpayers? $3.8 million to watch the Super Bowl in Florida with his family for 4-days....WHAT!!! Bolts without nuts, or vice versa do not hold together.
Traverse · February 7, 2017 at 5:18 pm
Virginia issues drivers licenses to non citizens. Virginia also has motor voter, where all you need to do is check a box saying you're a US citizen in order to get on the rolls. We all know non citizens are not allowed to vote. With thie current lax enforcement of proving citizenship to get on th voter rolls, much more needs to be done to insure the roles only contain US citizens. Requiring ID at the polls should be required, but we should also require proof of citizenship before allowing anyone to register. If voting is not important enough to someone to provide this proof, no matter how "difficult" they may find it, then that's their call. It's easy for any American citizen to provide evidence of citizenship.

The voter rolls should be audited before every election, to insure the rights of all American citizens to the full weight of thier cast ballot is not diluted by illegal non citizens on the voter rolls.
Rover 530 · February 4, 2017 at 9:03 pm
Somewhere in the USA people vote more than once and as someone they are not. In some areas it is easy to do and in almost all cases could have been avoided by the use of a picture ID issued by a government agency compared against documentation held by an electoral board. ID's issued by Virginia are free to anyone who qualifies for one. Anyone who is a citizen of the USA and resides in Virginia can get one. No ethnic minority or economic group is discriminated against. The argument against IDs for voting are ridiculous and without foundation. Have an ID, no voter fraud. No ID? Get one. Free. Go vote.
BJ · February 2, 2017 at 7:14 pm
I asked one person on election day if they voted and the response was, "No, but a non-vote is still a vote." A non-vote is like non-payment of rent, one way or the other you will lose something in the process.

Blaine Johnson
BJ · February 2, 2017 at 7:09 pm
It would be hilarious is there is an investigation and it proves that Trump really lost not won because of voter fraud. We can only hope!
Lash_LaRue · February 2, 2017 at 3:38 pm

And with all due respect, Dr. Richman is defending his study because it's his own work. In fact, if you read the fine print, his conclusions weren't so much the problem -- the dataset he used to extrapolate his findings was.

Thank God, we are all entitled to our own opinions, and for the time being at least, the USA remains a free country.

However, I think opinions deserve to be well-informed. If one reads a daily diet of tabloid fodder, for example, then one can arrive at ill-informed opinions that are based on falsehood and propaganda.

The claim that "some" non-citizens have voted in US elections is no doubt true. We agree on this.

The exaggeration that "millions" of people voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton illegally, however, is a blatant falsehood. Dr. Richman's study would seem to corroborate this.

To be clear: the policy proposal that you (and Trump) are advocating is that we send in police officers to investigate wrongdoing. That has wider implications.

What do you think that will do to voter turnout in minority communities? You might just not vote if you happen to fear the police for whatever reason, rightly or wrongly. That's good for Trump and the GOP, but it's bad for Democrats and, as it happens, democracy.

The cure is worse than the disease. You're implying that non-citizen voting is an endemic problem. I'm saying it's almost certainly not, and I think the data are pretty clear on this. Richman himself seems to agree on this point.

Long live the 1st amendment (and the 2nd).

- LL
Lee Smith · February 2, 2017 at 1:45 pm
Here You Go:
Now, you may say that the national and cable news channels have been reporting that the Dr. Richman study has been “debunked.” However, in the Washington Post Monkey Cage section on Nov. 2, 2014, Dr. Richman vehemently disputed that claim:

“Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections? Our blog post and article on non-citizen voting have reached a wide audience, and have motivated several efforts to dispute our methods and conclusions. Although the criticisms of our work speak to the inherent difficulty of studying individuals who face strong pressures to misrepresent their behaviors, we maintain that our data is the best currently available to answer the question and stand by our finding that some non-citizens have voted in recent elections (emphasis added).”
Lee Smith · February 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm
I stand by what Dr. Richman said. Dr. Richman certainly does not appear to be a Trump supporter nor is there any evidence whatsoever he is a right wing political type. He is a professor. He issued a vigorous defense of his study in the Washington Post. It is quoted in my article. In America, we are both entitled to our opinions but you seem bent on eliminating mine.
Lash_LaRue · February 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm
To Lee Smith:

SIR - Thank you for the very interesting article. I don't debate whether non-citizens do, in fact, vote. I do debate whether the number of non-citizen votes is statistically significant. The Richman study you (and the Trump Administration) cite as evidence of this phenomenon drew sweeping conclusions from internet survey data that was inherently unreliable. There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. But I digress.

I note that the Trump Administration, like yourself, is indeed calling for an investigation into voter fraud. Well, Sir, the motive for this investigation is hardly a noble one; it is undoubtedly also a cynical, self-serving one. Given the facts about the statistical incidence of voter fraud, it is highly likely that this "investigation" is, in fact, nothing more than a politically motivated McCarthyist witch hunt designed to disenfranchise and suppress turnout of the Trump Administration's political opposition.

I have no doubt that there is a Mexican agricultural worker in California somewhere who voted illegally in the past election cycle. But even the Richman study would conclude that there were not, in fact, "millions" of them, as Mr. Trump would very much like for you to believe. This is a falsehood that is being unjustly propagated as fact in the right-wing press.

The cure that you are proposing is infinitely worse than the disease itself. It implicitly and indirectly spins a toxic, xenophobic narrative that appeals to the worst instincts in human beings -- namely, to subjugate and suppress members of the minority Outgroup. You are couching what is a truly caustic, xenophobic argument in nice, polite terms. You can't have a "civil discussion" about a fundamentally uncivil policy proposition predicated on flawed internet survey data.

There will be more media spin from the far-right in the coming four years. Much of it will be opportunistic argumentation based on questionable evidence that advances an agenda at the expense of the Truth. Your opinion piece is part and parcel to that narrative.

In the coming years, all civic-minded Americans must guard against, and put forth facts in every instance, whenever confronted with "alternative facts"; the truth is indispensable to a functioning democracy.

Sincerely yours,

Lee Smith · February 2, 2017 at 2:33 am
To: Warren Darrell
Thank you for the civil discussion. It is a great American tradition and lends value to our society.
Lee Smith · February 1, 2017 at 3:48 pm
On 1/25/17, I think that Dr. Richman summed things up quite well:
Over the last three years, Richman has grown weary of what he describes as the partisan distortions of his research. “We’re perpetually fighting a two-front war,” he says. “One against people, mostly coming from the left, who want to claim on generally quite flimsy grounds that the study is completely invalid, and on the other hand people on the right who want to pretend this study is much more than it is or says much more than it does.”

Lee Smith · February 1, 2017 at 2:50 pm
So much for civil discourse.
Lash_LaRue · February 1, 2017 at 2:44 pm
... I don't dispute the guy has a PhD, but having a PhD doesn't make him infallible.

There are others, who also have PhD's, who have disputed his findings.

In this case, the other PhD's found out that he didn't do his math correctly. Richman's study was flawed:

So, your statement that "about 4.85 million non-citizens likely registered to vote" is demonstrably false.

However well intended, your article is propagating disinformation. That is reckless and irresponsible. Lies and disinformation propagated and passed off as truth has a corrosive effect on public civics. Please publish a retraction immediately.
Lee Smith · February 1, 2017 at 2:29 pm
By the way, I have never made the claim millions voted illegally.
I did state that there may be, on the high end, according to Dr. Richman along with my simple math, about 4.85 million non-citizens likely registered to vote.
Lee Smith · February 1, 2017 at 2:24 pm
We are not talking tabloids.
We are talking about a Ph.D. professor who is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, who teaches at Old Dominion University and who formerly taught at Vanderbilt University. He is a very sincere and dedicated political science professor who studies facts.
Lash_LaRue · February 1, 2017 at 2:09 pm
Ok, fine, "debunked" is a strong word. "Discredited" is more apt. Academic studies are not sacrosanct; they are subject to peer review. That's how the scientific method works.

I have no doubt that there is some amount of fraud in any large electoral system. The question is whether it is statistically significant. "Millions" COULD be a statistically significant number. But "millions" = BS.

As to your argument about censorship: nobody is censoring anything. Go look at the tabloids claiming that Elvis is coming back to rapture us away in a UFO. Go look at the useless reams of gossip on TMZ, or the unapologetic propaganda of "Russia Today". It's all available, nobody is censoring it (thank God).

The problem is when propaganda becomes intermingled with the truth. Propaganda would have it that "millions" of people voted illegally. But it's nothing more than propaganda. It's not the Truth. And that is with a capital, "T".
Lee Smith · February 1, 2017 at 1:46 pm
Correction: "Academic studies are debated and reviewed."
Lee Smith · February 1, 2017 at 1:45 pm
When Dr. Richman states that his study has been "debunked" I will report that. Academic studies are not debated and reviewed. What you are suggesting sounds a lot like censorship. When our Constitution was adopted, the debate was very fierce on both sides but censorship never entered the picture because that was something that the King of England had done for a long time. Patrick Henry, the author of the "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, who also served as the 1st Governor of Virginia, was as adamant in his opposition to the Constitution as some of us are in supporting the freedom of speech yet no one ever tried to silence him. We need to learn respect of opinions that we do not agree with.
It is clear that voter fraud exists and we shall find out when the new administration conducts the promised investigation.
WarrentonMan · February 1, 2017 at 1:18 pm
We absolutely do need to investigate potential voter fraud. The thing is we already have.

There is a wealth of evidence there is no issue with widespread voter fraud. The 2014 study referenced in this article has already been widely rejected by more than just the media. The author hand-waives this away the same way they hand-waive away the countless nonpartisan, independent studies showing no widespread voter fraud; by claiming this is just the musings of ideological pundits and cable news anchors. However, they then embrace the irony of quoting an op-ed from Fox News, a cable news network, as their second, and only other source, for the claim that voter fraud is widespread. That irony only gets worse when we find out that part of the evidence this op-ed provides is a poll about whether or not people believe voter fraud exists. We have literally gotten to the point where people's perceptions about what is real is being used as an argument for what is real.

Again, there is a wealth of nonpartisan, independent studies conducted by universities, think-tanks, private individuals, and state and local agencies that show no basis for the claim there is widespread voter fraud. If you would like more research to be done, I welcome it. However, don't claim it is because a lack of research has been done into the area and don't accuse people of listening to the pundits, and not the facts, when your own argument requires that.

Lash_LaRue · February 1, 2017 at 12:24 pm
By the way, according to Ansolabehere, Luks, and Schaffner:

"The rate of non-citizen voting in the United States is likely 0." — (statistically, speaking)

SOURCE: The perils of cherry picking low frequency events in large sample surveys
Lash_LaRue · February 1, 2017 at 12:18 pm
To Lee Smith:

SIR — I have no doubt you believe your own argument, but THE RICHMAN STUDY HAS BEEN DEBUNKED AS BOGUS. Let me repeat for emphasis: this is A BOGUS STUDY. Richman's conclusions were due to MEASUREMENT ERROR (!!!) :

FURTHERMORE, note that Dr. Stephen Ansolabehere himself, the same academic who you seem to refer to, the same academic who created the database for the Richman study, authored the paper that debunked Richman's conclusions.

Voter fraud is rare, but America the Beautiful has a long track record of voter suppression.

The TRUTH is not subjective. You can't just make stuff up!
warrendarrell1 · February 1, 2017 at 9:07 am
To Lee Smith,

I think we disagree on some matters, but it appears we agree that discussion, informed and without insults or hostility, serves to enlighten us.

On February 16 at 7 p.m., at the John Barton Payne Community Hall, OneVirginia2021 is making a presentation about gerrymandering and redistricting in Virginia. This, as well as properly qualified voters, is one aspect of fair or unfair elections. I invite you to attend.

Warren Darrell
Lee Smith · February 1, 2017 at 4:43 am
To Warren Darrell:
My opinion article was not based on what President Donald Trump or his Press Secretary Shawn Spicer have said or not said. It is a pure academic based piece from a study by an Old Dominion University professor, Dr. Richman (Ph.D. Carnegie Mellon University) and data assembled by a Professor at Harvard University, Dr. Stephen Ansolabehere (Ph. D. from Harvard University).
Dr. Richman was correct in letting people know what his study says or does not say. As noted in my opinion piece, his data clearly demonstrated that 4.85 million non-citizens may be registered to vote. We do not know how many voted but we do know that Dr. Richman concluded that non-citizens registered to vote do vote and do so in significant enough numbers to change election outcomes. He concluded that Democrat Senator Al Franken was very likely elected in 2008 due to non-citizen voters. He concluded that the North Carolina State victory by then Senator Barack Obama was likely due to non-citizen votes. These are very powerful academic study findings that should not be ignored.
Non-citizen voting is illegal in 49 states and mostly illegal in Maryland. It is also illegal for non-citizens to serve on a jury. Trial by a Jury of your peers is another backbone of our democracy. Apparently, non-citizens registered to vote are often exposed when they are selected for jury duty and must sign an affidavit that they are a citizen of our Country. The Heritage Foundation reported that in 2004, a guilty verdict in a murder trial in Maryland was jeopardized because a non-citizen was discovered on the jury-which had been chosen from the voter rolls.
I simply want to see the facts presented for each citizen to make their own decisions.
Lee Smith · February 1, 2017 at 4:01 am
To Lash LaRue:
Fear can drive America but we prefer intelligence and documented facts. The facts in my opinion are from an academic study published Dr. Richman, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Old Dominion University. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Carnegie Mellon University, and came to ODU in 2006 after teaching at Vanderbilt University.” (See
Dr. Richman based his study on data from the 2008 and 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Studies, which were released by Dr. Stephen Ansolabehere. Dr. Stephen Ansolabehere received his Political Science Ph. D. from Harvard University in 1989. He has been a Professor at the Department of Government, Harvard University since 2008. From 1998-2009 he was the Elting Morison Professor, Department of Political Science, MIT (Associate Head, 2001-2005).
As you can see, we are interested in understanding our democracy and working to make it better. Voting is at the heart of our political system and must be protected. Dr. Richman and Dr. Ansolabehere are great Americans who are making a difference. They are not political pundits or hacks.
warrendarrell1 · January 31, 2017 at 7:31 pm
To Lee Smith -

Agreed, facts are important, and we need to discover the truth. That's why several of us have asked Mr. Trump to produce the evidence of the millions of fraudulent votes he has alleged; such evidence has not yet been produced. The evidence would be valuable to the investigation.

You may want to see Professor Richman's interview with Norfolk television station WGNT (, in which Dr. "Richman tells News 3 that Spicer (Mr. Trump's press secretary) was not only confusing another study with his own from 2014, but also exaggerating the numbers."

Can we agree that for the sake of insuring a just democracy, we should have a thorough unbiased multi-viewpoint investigation of facts regarding voter fraud, voter suppression, and politically biased gerrymandering?
Lash_LaRue · January 31, 2017 at 5:38 pm
Read up on dezinformatsiya, my fellow citizens. If you want a witch hunt to soothe Trump's fragile ego (he lost California by a fair-and-square landslide, ANYBODY who's ever been out there would have expected this), then we also need to do a witch hunt to investigate planted disinformation pieces like this one.

"...scientists will analyze the facts and then publish how they conducted the analysis and what conclusions they have reached."

That's cute. So does this mean that the author implicitly endorses the scientific consensus on climate change? Because you know, scientists are pretty much in unanimous agreement about that...

It pains me to see my country being turned into Venezuela. Hugo Chavez destroyed that country entirely with his divisive populism. Now we have our very own version. All Trump needs to do is generate enough cynicism in the general public so that the truth itself becomes irrelevant.

Once truth itself becomes completely subjective, then they can get away with almost anything. It will just be spun as a necessary step to fight against the Enemies of the State. This is how democratic institutions get subverted and turned into the machinery of oppression.

Don't think it will ever happen here? Think again. Look at how life in Russia is under Putin. That could be here in a few years.
citizen observer · January 31, 2017 at 4:20 pm
Great piece and I believe you are correct. One can only imagine what went on in the Sanctuary Cities.
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