I hold no illusions that any of these truths will matter to those who have invested themselves in tales of widespread fraud. After all, they weren’t moved when both Republican and Democratic officials in states around the country reaffirmed, in some cases multiple times, the accuracy and integrity of their vote counts. Even Bill Barr, the former attorney general and one of Mr. Trump’s most reliable bootlickers, could not bring himself to repeat the lie that there was any meaningful fraud in 2020.
Alas, Republican voters don’t listen to Bill Barr. They listen to Donald Trump, who dismissed the A.P.’s report by doing his standard Mafia don impression. “I just don’t think you should make a fool out of yourself by saying 400 votes,” the former president told the news organization, insisting that the true number of fraudulent votes in 2020 was in the “hundreds of thousands.” His evidence? An unreleased report by a source he refused to name.
This is how it goes with the vote-fraud fraudsters. The damning evidence is always right around the next corner, or the one after that. Recall that Mr. Trump established a voter-fraud commission soon after he entered office, with the goal of rooting out the supposedly massive fraud that led him to lose the popular vote by nearly three million votes. (Like everyone else, he knew that true democratic legitimacy comes not from the Electoral College, but from a majority of the American people.) The commission was led by Kris Kobach, the indefatigable vote-fraud warrior whom Mr. Daley once called “an Inspector Clouseau who gazes into his mirror and sees Sherlock Holmes.” In Mr. Kobach’s previous job as Kansas’s secretary of state, he spent years hunting for widespread vote fraud and won only nine convictions, most of them of older Republican men who had double voted. Under Mr. Kobach’s leadership, the Trump voter-fraud commission disbanded after less than a year of chaos and controversy, without having made any findings.
That’s because, as the A.P. report affirms once again, there was nothing to find. American voters aren’t cheating, and certainly not in any coordinated way.
And here lies the deepest irony of this strange, fragile moment we are living in. A very real threat is, in fact, looming over America’s electoral integrity. But it’s not coming from voters; it’s coming from the people braying the loudest about the importance of election integrity.
Donald Trump turned fact-free charges of voter fraud into an art form, but the exploitation of the predictable public fear generated by that sort of rhetoric has been a central feature of the Republican playbook for years. Back in 2013, the then-North Carolina lawmaker Thom Tillis explained why Republicans in the Legislature were passing their strict voter-ID law. “There is some evidence of voter fraud, but that’s not the primary reason for doing this,” said Mr. Tillis, now a U.S. senator. “There are a lot of people who are just concerned with the potential risk of fraud.” Why are they so concerned? Because their leaders have been feeding them a steady diet of lies.
That diet became an all-you-can-eat buffet in the Trump years, culminating in the “Stop the Steal” rallies after the 2020 election and then, horrifically, in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Now the same people who subscribed to the lies about election fraud are running for, and often winning, jobs overseeing the running of elections across the country. They are representative of a new generation of Republicans, raised in the fever swamps of Fox News and other purveyors of disinformation, who believe elections are valid only when their candidate wins.