During the daily briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that widespread voter fraud is a belief President Trump has "maintained for a while." (Reuters)

President Trump continues to say he believes that as many as 5 million people voted illegally during the election last year, despite the claim being widely debunked. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, said Tuesday that Trump “does believe that … based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him,” remarks that came a day after the president made this claim to congressional leaders. But despite being pressed, Spicer provided no evidence, pointing only to one study that does not contain the statistic he mentioned.

On Tuesday afternoon, the group representing many of the country’s chief state election officials — otherwise known as the people who actually oversee elections in each state — said they did not know of “any evidence” backing up Trump’s claims. The group also said that if the Trump White House had concerns, they were willing to hear from them.

“We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the administration’s concerns,” the National Association of Secretaries of State said in a statement.

Spicer said Tuesday there was no investigation underway into the president’s allegations about millions of illegal votes, though he left open that possibility during his briefing.

On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that he planned to ask for “a major investigation” into what he called voter fraud. However, his tweets only mentioned looking into voter registration issues with an eye toward future elections, and made no mention of reviewing his claims of fraud in the 2016 election.

Elections in the United States are very decentralized, with many precise aspects — including polling times, registration deadlines and more — varying from location to location. Most states rely on a secretary of state as their top election official, and most of those officials are Republicans, according to the association.

Before the election, Trump made numerous comments preemptively calling into question the outcome of the vote, statements he made while trailing in the polls. Trump warned that “the election is going to be rigged” and said it would be “taken away from us” through fraud. He also refused, during a presidential debate, to say he would accept the outcome if he lost.

While Trump ultimately won the electoral college vote, he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million people, which he has waved away by claiming in November and again this week that “millions” of people illegally voted against him. No evidence has ever emerged to back up this claim, which would involve widespread voter fraud on a massive scale — and also require this undertaking to focus on racking up votes outside of the swing states that could actually tip the election’s outcome.

Due to Trump’s comments during the campaign, though, as well as concerns about Russia’s efforts to meddle in the election, the association of secretaries of state put out a statement just weeks before Election Day decrying what the group called “unsubstantiated claims calling into question the systemic integrity of the election process.”

In the statement last fall, the group said that “state election chiefs want to assure Americans that our process is fairly administered and well-secured, with built-in structural safeguards to ensure honest outcomes and accurate results.” The election chiefs pointed back to that message again on Tuesday, saying that “secretaries of state expressed their confidence in the systemic integrity of our election process as a bipartisan group, and they stand behind that statement today.”

After Trump’s tweet Wednesday morning calling for a voter fraud investigation, Jon Husted, Ohio’s Secretary of State and a Republican, replied by saying that officials already had a review underway in his state. “Easy to vote, hard to cheat,” he added.

This post, first published Tuesday, has been updated Wednesday morning with tweets by Trump and Husted. 

Further reading:

Trump’s false claim that millions of people voted illegally