For as long as Democrats were winning the Rust Belt in presidential elections, Republicans have been on the hunt for voter fraud in big cities. In 2012, when Pennsylvania Republicans passed a voter ID law, they explicitly said it would allow Mitt Romney to win the state by ending fraud in Philadelphia. When Wisconsin Republicans worried that they might lose a close Supreme Court race, they discussed “messaging 'widespread reports of election fraud' so we are positively set up for the recount.” When commentators defended President Trump's pre-election fear of fraud, the biggest Rust Belt cities made easy targets.
In 2012, there were "59 separate precincts in inner-city Philadelphia that Mitt Romney did not get a single vote, not one,” Sean Hannity said last August. “And according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, there were nine precincts in Cleveland alone, again, not a single Romney vote — not one. Now, maybe I'm conspiratorial. Maybe this is a stretch. But 70 districts in two cities?”
Good news, Midwest: According to the White House, there actually is no voter fraud in the Midwest — or at least, not a significant amount — specifically in the states where Trump competed and won. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said so during an exchange with Fox News reporter John Roberts, who brought up the fact that Trump's legal team had beaten back recount lawsuits in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by saying there had been no fraud.
“Attorneys who were representing the president-elect during the recounts in several states emphatically stated, quote, 'All available evidence suggests the 2016 election was not tainted by fraud or mistake,' " Roberts said. “So how do you square those two things?”
Spicer said: “I think there's a lot of states that we didn't compete in where that's not necessarily the case. You look at California and New York, I'm not sure that those statements were — we didn't look at those two states, in particular. I mean, as the president has noted before, he campaigned to win the electoral college, not the popular vote. He campaigned in places like Iowa; he campaigned extensively to win Maine, too. And I think if you were campaigning to win the popular vote, you don't spend — with all due respect to my brethren in New England, you don't spend a ton of time in Maine, too, to get that one electoral vote. You would have campaigned more in California, which he didn't. You would have campaigned more in New York, which he didn't.”
Trump competed in every Midwestern state except Illinois, which native daughter Hillary Clinton was always favored to win. It stands to reason, then, that the president of the United States does not believe that there was voter fraud in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia or Wisconsin, the states where he competed most closely with Clinton.
Poof — in 30 seconds from the Brady room, decades of hand-wringing about urban ballot-stuffing appeared to be over. On Election Day itself, conservative groups (among them James O'Keefe's Project Veritas) trained potential fraudsters in Philadelphia, tasking them with reporting anything that might be fishy. Indeed, there had been voter fraud in local elections, this decade, and the city was investigating it.
But millions of voters no longer need to worry about voter fraud. What was a problem when Democrats won the Midwest is no longer a problem now that they lost it. Instead, the administration is floating the false theory that millions of fraudulent ballots were cast in New York and California — ballots, in more than half a dozen districts, that produced big numbers for Hillary Clinton but sent Republicans back to the House to advance Trump's agenda.