Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton supports President Trump’s claim that noncitizens are voting in U.S. elections, saying prosecutors in his own state have won convictions for voter fraud.
“I know it’s an issue because I deal with it,” Mr. Paxton told The Washington Times. “We just got a conviction on an illegal that voted in an election.”
Putting a number on how many illegal votes were cast is difficult, however, because local election officials aren’t looking for that kind of fraud.
“They’re complicit in allowing it to happen,” he said. “I guarantee it is happening — whatever people say.”
Mr. Trump has said millions of illegal votes were cast in the presidential election, distorting the national vote tally in favor of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and has called for an investigation into the matter. In November, Mr. Trump said he would have won the national vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
The claim has been heatedly debated, but Mr. Paxton said voter fraud could reach into the millions.
Gregg Phillips, founder of the fraud reporting app VoteStand, said he uncovered 3 million votes from “noncitizens” after the November election. Mr. Trump touted Mr. Phillips’ findings in a post on Twitter shortly after his inauguration.
The claim was rebuked by Democrats and several news outlets such as The Washington Post, which reported that only four cases of voter fraud occurred in the election.
But Mr. Paxton said local authorities aren’t trying to spot fraud.
“Here’s what makes me think it’s real, part of it, I see enough,” he said. “What other reason is there to defend photo ID?”
Texas has one of the toughest voter-ID laws in the country. Mr. Paxton has been defending it in court against challenges by voting rights groups and the Obama administration, which said the law was discriminatory.
Last month, the Justice Department under the new Trump administration dropped part of that challenge, saying it no longer will pursue the claim that Texas’ law targeted minorities.
Mr. Paxton defended the law as a common-sense answer to fraud and said the state’s steps to accommodate voters — including giving free acceptable forms of ID — proves Texas isn’t trying to suppress voting.
“We’ll give you a photo ID. What other reason really is there really for saying that we shouldn’t have photo ID unless you really don’t want fraud being prevented?” Mr. Paxton asked.
Jon Bond, a political science professor at Texas A&M University, said there is no reliable evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. and that claiming voter fraud is just an excuse to enact strict ID laws against people who are likely to vote for Democrats.
“In light of Mr. Trump’s comments during and after the 2016 election, I would not be surprised to see additional efforts from the Justice Department to further suppress voting rights,” said Mr. Bond. “This type of partisan opportunism undermines the legitimacy of American democracy — that’s the widespread voter fraud occurring now.”
Jim Granato, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said existing data don’t suggest widespread voting by illegal immigrants. But he said there isn’t a comprehensive, rigorous national study on the issue.
“That does not mean it does not occur,” Mr. Granato said. “And it could have an effect in close elections.”
Still, voter ID laws can suppress turnout, according to a University of Houston study, which found that misinformation about the law discouraged even people with valid IDs from showing up for 2014 elections in a Texas congressional district.
Mr. Granato said that with voter ID laws, a “key issue is making sure the voters are informed to know the variety of IDs they can use.”
“Some folks had the proper ID and didn’t know it,” he said.
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