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Recidivism Watch: Spicer uses repeatedly debunked citations for Trump’s voter fraud claims

The Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee explains why White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s claims about voter fraud in the presidential election don’t add up. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

“I think there have been studies; there was one that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who have voted were not citizens. There are other studies that were presented to him.”

–White House press secretary Sean Spicer, news briefing, Jan. 24, 2017

Spicer cited repeatedly debunked research to support Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally during the 2016 presidential election. These studies do not support Trump’s Four-Pinocchio claims of “millions” of people voting illegally — as we’ve covered here, here, here, here and here.

Spicer claimed Trump believes there was widespread voter fraud, based on studies that were presented to him. Then Spicer cited a Pew study that — as we noted before — does not support this claim. Moreover, Spicer conflated the Pew study with another study that — again — does not support this claim.

A 2012 Pew Center on the States study found problems with inaccurate voter registrations, people who registered in more than one state (which could happen if the voter moves and registers in the new state without telling the former state) and deceased voters whose information was still on the voter rolls.

The primary author of the Pew report tweeted in response to Trump’s staff’s claim that he “can confirm that report made no findings re: voter fraud.”

Spicer said a Pew study from 2008 showed that “14 percent of people who have voted were not citizens.” He likely was referring to research by Old Dominion University professors, using data from 2008 and 2010. They found that 14 percent of noncitizens in the 2008 and 2010 samples said they were registered to vote.

But the researchers warned that “it is impossible to tell for certain whether the noncitizens who responded to the survey were representative of the broader population of noncitizens.”

One of the researchers, Jesse Richman, wrote about the Trump staff’s use of his research. The results “suggest that almost all elections in the US are not determined by noncitizen participation, with occasional and very rare potential exceptions,” he wrote.

Despite Trump’s repeated claims, his attorneys stated there was no evidence of voter fraud in the 2016 election. In a court filing opposing Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s recount petition, lawyers for Trump and his campaign wrote: “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

When we debunked this claim on Nov. 29, 2016, we implored Trump’s staff members to please drop this talking point — as we are tired of telling them it is false. We can’t emphasize this point enough.

The Fact Checker Recidivism Watch tracks politicians who repeat claims that we have previously found to be incorrect or false. These posts are short summaries of previous findings, with links to the original fact-check. We welcome reader suggestions.

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