New Survey of Local Election Officials Debunks Trump’s Claims that Millions Improperly Voted in 2016

May 5, 2017

40 of 42 Jurisdictions Studied Reported No Known Incidents of Noncitizen Voting

Noncitizen voting in the 2016 election was exceedingly rare, according to a new analysis of information from local election administrators by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Its findings counter claims from President Trump that 3-5 million people voted illegally in November. 

To produce this new resource, researchers conducted standardized, in-depth interviews with election officials in 42 jurisdictions across the country, including administrators in eight of the 10 jurisdictions with the largest populations of noncitizens. Of 23.5 million votes tabulated in the areas surveyed, election officials referred an estimated 30 incidents of suspected noncitizen voting for further investigation or prosecution, representing 0.0001 percent of the votes cast. Other findings of Noncitizen Voting: The Missing Millions include:

  • Forty jurisdictions — all but two of the 42 studied — reported no known incidents of noncitizen voting in 2016. All of the officials spoken with said that the incidence of noncitizen voting in prior years was not significantly greater than in 2016.
  • In the 10 counties with the largest populations of noncitizens in 2016, only one reported any instances of noncitizen voting, consisting of fewer than 10 votes. New York City, home to two of the counties, refused to participate in the study.
  • In California, Virginia and New Hampshire — the states where Trump claimed the problem of noncitizen voting was especially acute — no official we spoke with identified any incidents of noncitizen voting in 2016.

“President Trump has said repeatedly that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, but our interviews with local election administrators made clear that rampant noncitizen voting simply did not occur,” said Douglas Keith, the counsel and Katz Fellow in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and co-author of the analysis. “Any claims to the contrary make their job harder and distract from progress toward needed improvements like automatic voter registration.”

“Our team made a specific point of interviewing election officials in areas with high populations of noncitizens,” said Christopher Famighetti, policy and research analyst in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and co-author of the analysis. “They would have been the first to notice improper voting of any kind, and a vast majority of them didn’t see it at all. Those that did report suspected incidents of noncitizen voting had a handful, amounting to an insignificant fraction of the total votes.”

To read the full analysis, and learn more about the selection of jurisdictions and survey methodology, click here. And click here to visit the Brennan Center’s resource page on the myth of voter fraud for more information and research on these issues.

###