Many were left scratching their heads Sunday when Donald Trump claimed, with no evidence, that he would have won the popular vote if “millions” hadn’t voted illegally.
The unfounded claim was odd, as Trump was apparently questioning the validity of the election he just won. But Democrat Hillary Clinton’s commanding lead in the popular vote appears to have annoyed Trump, who appears set to win with 306 votes in the Electoral College.
Where does he come up with this stuff?
The theory appears to have originated in a tweet that got picked up by conspiratorial websites and was soon after plastered across several major sites in the right-wing blogosphere. And though it’s been repeated frequently, no evidence has been put forth so far to support it.
Most reports cite a pair of tweets from someone named Gregg Phillips, whose Twitter page describes him as the founder of VoteStand, an “online election fraud reporting app.” Within five days of the general election, Phillips claimed to have “verified” that more than 3 million noncitizens voted.
Completed analysis of database of 180 million voter registrations.
Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million.
Consulting legal team.
— Gregg Phillips (@JumpVote) November 11, 2016
We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.
— Gregg Phillips (@JumpVote) November 13, 2016
Phillips, a former deputy human services commissioner for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, also claimed that VoteStand and True the Vote, another group that purports to be a voters’ rights organization, built a database of 180,000,000 voters and tagged noncitizens over the past six years.
Alex Jones’ Infowars, Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos and other partisan websites picked up the story. Jones is a prominent conspiracy theorist who has even gone as far as to question the Sandy Hook massacre. Trump went on Jones’ radio show during the campaign, and Jones claimed after the election that Trump called to thank him. Trump himself has a long history of making wild claims of voter fraud.
So far, however, Phillips has refused to let the media see his data, saying that he fears the media will spin the information. On Monday morning, True the Vote released the following statement defending its claims:
“True the Vote absolutely supports President-elect Trump’s recent comment about the impact of illegal voting, as reflected in the national popular vote. We are still collecting data and will be for several months, but our intent is to publish a comprehensive study on the significant impact of illegal voting in all of its many forms and begin a national discussion on how voters, states, and the Trump Administration can best address this growing problem.”
The rumor-debunking website Snopes investigated Phillips’ claim and concluded that there is “no evidence whatsoever” to support it. Snopes noted that Phillips had argued that Obamacare opened up the gates for millions of undocumented immigrants to register to vote illegally.
“Based on these past statements, it seems likely that Phillips’ case that three million non-citizens voted in the past election is related to his claim that ‘illegals’ are registering to vote via Obamacare,” wrote David Emery of Snopes. “In the absence of supporting data, however, he has really made no case at all. The ‘three million non-citizens’ figure may just as well have been plucked out of thin air.”
Trump himself made similarly unfounded claims about both Obamacare and voter fraud. “Maybe some of the dead voters who helped get President Obama elected can be brought back to life after signing up for ObamaCare,” he tweeted in 2013.