President Trump says he will launch an investigation into his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. But one of the potential areas he highlighted for probing — voters who are registered in two different states — appears as though it would snag his own top adviser.
Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that his "major investigation into VOTER FRAUD" would be "including those registered to vote in two states."
One of those people, as it happens, is apparently Stephen K. Bannon, Trump's chief White House strategist.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Tuesday evening that Bannon was registered to vote in both Florida and New York. The Post's Matea Gold, meanwhile, reports he attempted to de-register in Florida, but that it was never received or processed:
Bannon registered to vote in New York on Oct. 14, 2016, and cast an absentee ballot there, according to New York City elections officials. At the time, he was serving as chief executive of now-President Trump's campaign. But he was also registered in Sarasota County, Fla., where he had been on the voter rolls since Aug. 25, officials said.White House officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.On the day before the Nov. 8 election, Bannon sent a letter to then-Sarasota County Elections Supervisor Kathy Dent, informing her that he had moved to New York and requesting that he be removed from the rolls, according to a person familiar with the letter who shared details about it with The Washington Post.Since the letter was sent Nov. 7, it is unlikely it would have arrived before Election Day. However, on Wednesday, Sarasota elections officials said they still had no record of receiving it. "None of us recall getting it," said the current elections supervisor, Ron Turner, who took office in January after previously serving as the agency's chief of staff.
Even if it was merely an honest mistake or paperwork glitch, it's an example of how two of the three things Trump says he wants investigated for "VOTER FRAUD" — dual registrants and "those registered to vote who are dead" — simply don't constitute fraud. These things happen quite a bit, almost always for non-nefarious reasons, and they aren't actually proof of the 3 million to 5 million illegal votes that Trump has baselessly claimed were cast in the 2016 election.
Those alleging voter fraud have long pointed to people still being registered to vote after they die and to those registered in two states as proof that voter fraud exists or is possible, as White House press secretary Sean Spicer did Tuesday while being pressed for proof of Trump's claims.
Spicer mentioned a 2012 Pew study that estimated that as much as 13 percent of national voter registrations were inaccurate or invalid. But an author of that same study emphasized after Spicer's briefing that this was simply faulty registrations — not voter fraud.
And Bannon's problem is actually quite common, as the Pew study notes:
This study found that almost 2.7 million people appear to be registered in two states, and more than 70,000 people could be registered in three or more. In all, more than 2.75 million people appear to have multiple registrations.
As is dead people being registered to vote:
More than 1.8 million records for people who are no longer living, but have registrations on voter rolls.
But these are registrations, not actual votes. And there are very, very few proven instances of dead people voting or people voting in two states — and certainly not even close to being on the scale of millions in one election.
Let's assume Trump does launch this investigation — which remains an open question given that the Justice Department isn't commenting and Republican congressional leaders view this as a useless distraction. If and when there is no evidence of the millions of illegal votes Trump has alleged, he and fellow voter fraud crusaders may again point to these dual registrants and registered dead voters as proof of voter fraud.
But now, if Trump does that, he'll basically be accusing his own chief adviser of fraud — which is just about a perfect microcosm of this whole wild goose chase.