Republicans caught spreading huge lie about 'voter fraud' in Texas


State GOP officials in Texas should have checked their math before alleging a massive voter fraud scheme that doesn't exist.

Last week, the Republican secretary of state in Texas, David Whitley, made a truly startling claim: that 95,000 people in Texas were registered to vote despite not being citizens, and 58,000 of those had voted in at least one Texas election.

Although it was clear almost immediately that the numbers were suspect, that didn't stop Republicans — from top Texas elected officials all the way up to Trump — from spreading panic about it.

Ken Paxton, Texas' GOP attorney general, declared a "VOTER FRAUD ALERT" on Twitter. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott praised Whitley for allegedly "uncovering and investigating this illegal vote registration." Trump tweeted to lie once again about voter fraud being rampant in California.

Now, however, evidence for this claim has completely collapsed — the same thing that happens every time Republicans cry "voter fraud."

Whitley's irresponsible claim was based on a cursory look at the voter rolls with no follow-up research. First, he looked at a list of people the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) showed had applied for a driver's license or other ID using a form of documentation, like a green card, that showed they weren't a citizen. Then, he compared that to the voter rolls.

The problem with this approach is that many of people may have become naturalized citizens since applying for their driver's license, and other names may merely be duplicates.

This is exactly what county elections officials found when they started looking more closely at the names. Harris County reviewed 30,000 names and quickly determined that at least 60 percent of the voters they'd reviewed so far were actually citizens, and 400 of the names on the list were duplicates.

In fact, one attorney for the county told the New York Times that officials are "not willing to conclude at this point that we know of anybody on this list who is not a United States citizen."

Other counties also reported that their lists contained a "significant" number of names that shouldn't be included.

In the face of this, Whitley walked back his claim somewhat. Five large counties in Texas have already received calls from Whitley's office saying that some of the 95,000 people marked as suspect shouldn't be on those lists.

But while Whitley and other GOP officials were willing to shout the initial false claims of voter fraud from the rooftops, they have been very quiet about reversing those claims.

Republicans frequently raise the specter of in-person voter fraud, even though evidence shows that such fraud is so rare it's essentially nonexistent. Trump even set up a voter fraud commission to try to convince people to believe his made-up stories about busloads of people crossing state lines to fraudulently vote — but he was forced to shut it down when the commission couldn't find evidence to back up his claims.

While in-person voter fraud almost never happens, election fraud can and does. But when real election fraud does occur, as in North Carolina's 9th District, the GOP ignores it entirely. The GOP candidate for that House seat, Mark Harris, hired someone who had been linked to previous election fraud — and that person allegedly ran an illegal scheme to collect absentee ballots from real voters and then throw those ballots away.

All along, the GOP has really been interested in voter suppression, not voter fraud. They know that keeping people from the polls tends to be the only way they can win — and spreading lies like Whitley, Paxton, Abbott, and Trump did is part of that scheme.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.