President Donald Trump suggests millions of people voted illegally because they’re registered to vote in more than one state ― something that isn’t actually illegal.
Voting more than once in an election, of course, is illegal. But being registered to vote in multiple states is not. Trump seems to confuse the issues as he has repeatedly ― and falsely ― claimed voter fraud caused him to lose the November popular vote to Hilary Clinton.
“If you look at voter registration, you look at the dead people that are registered to vote who vote, you look at people that are registered in two states, you look at all of these different things that are happening with registration,” Trump told ABC’s David Muir in an interview that aired Wednesday. “You take a look at those registrations … and we’re gonna do an investigation on it.”
Trump and his White House have inaccurately pointed to a 2012 Pew study as evidence that millions of people voted illegally. The study, however, says nothing about illegal voting ― only that nearly one in every eight voter registration records is outdated. The research showed 2.75 million people were registered to vote in more than one state.
“It’s not illegal. People often move out of state, register in their new state, and then just vote in their new state,” Allegra Chapman, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, said in an email. The old registration eventually gets purged when states “clean the rolls,” she said.
Gerry Hebert, director of voting rights and redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center, said duplicate registrations usually were clerical errors.
“It’s a matter of election administration (or lack thereof) when someone moves and their former voter registration office never gets informed by the new voting registrar,” Hebert said in an email.
“Voting in the same election twice would be a crime,” Hebert observed. Being registered in two places is not.
Trump’s daughter, Tiffany, son-in-law Jared Kushner, senior adviser Stephen Bannon, press secretary Sean Spicer, and Treasury secretary nominee Stephen Mnuchin all were registered in multiple states during the November election.
Dale Ho, executive director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said the fact that so many people close to Trump were double-registered shows how easily it happens.
“It happens because people move, we’re a mobile society and we don’t have a centralized voter registration system,” Ho said. “That’s not an indicator that those [individuals] or anyone else associated with Mr. Trump is engaging in voter fraud, it just means they’ve moved and that’s how our system works.”
Tiffany Trump, for example, was registered to vote in Pennsylvania. Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania secretary of state, said no law requires people to notify election authorities in their old county when they move. Meredith Beatrice, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state in Florida, where Bannon was registered, said state law doesn’t address registration in multiple states.
The Brennan Center for Justice noted in 2007 that double-voting in an election is exceptionally rare.
“I wouldn’t call it a myth entirely because it does happen,” Ho said. “In Wisconsin, one of the only examples of voter fraud when we challenged their voter ID law was this guy who voted for Scott Walker I think 14 times.”
He added: “It’s not an epidemic and it’s not the kind of problem that these new restrictions on voting that are being proposed are gonna do anything about.”