1. Opinion

Editorial: Focus on Russian hacking, not false voter fraud claims

Donald Trump continues to discredit his own victory, fanning the myth of wide-scale voting fraud in last month's presidential election. But those responsible for counting votes — election supervisors across the nation — are now reporting their own conclusions: Virtually no credible cases of voting fraud occurred. The president-elect should put this matter to rest and focus on the crime that did occur, the suspected Russian hacking of American computers. And voters should be watchful of lawmakers who continue to peddle these lies as a means for imposing more restrictive voting laws.

The New York Times reported Monday that law enforcement and elections officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia found no credible reports of fraudulent voting. Officials in another eight states reported only a single case. These officials cut across the political aisle, from Democrats to Republicans. And while a few states had a higher number of fraud claims under review, these cases were still the exception rather the rule. Only a couple dozen were reported in Tennessee and Georgia out of a combined 8.4 million ballots cast in those two states.

As the New York Times noted, the findings "unambiguously debunk" Trump's repeated claims that millions of illegal voters backed Hillary Clinton. While some states have not completed their reviews of all questionable ballots, no state has reported any sign of widespread fraud. And the number of suspect ballots has been too low to generate any serious concerns in an election in which 138 million voters cast a ballot. "Nothing at all, really," said an official in Illinois. "We had only one," noted Nebraska's assistant secretary of state. "We haven't received any complaints to our office," said a spokesman for Arizona's secretary of state.

The news is not surprising. News21, a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie Corp. and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found just 56 cases of noncitizens voting between 2000 and 2011. A report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law in 2007 found that most cases of noncitizens voting were accidental. Hundreds of Election Day monitors for the journalism project ProPublica reported no evidence of ballot-tampering or voting by illegal immigrants. For all Trump's claims of a "rigged" election and illegal voting, the election ran smoothly in most jurisdictions, a credit to the work and professionalism of elections officials and the investment state and local governments have made in equipment, training and early voting across the nation.

Trump's discredited claims about voter fraud come as he is disputing the assessment of the nation's intelligence community that Russia was behind cyber attacks aimed at influencing the presidential election. On Sunday, bipartisan pressure increased on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to appoint a select committee to investigate Russia's actions. A select committee would give this serious matter the attention it deserves and help remove the taint of partisan politics from any congressional probe. Trump has not offered any substantive basis for challenging the intelligence community's assessment. As the president-elect, Trump should work with Congress and the intelligence agencies to present a united front against Moscow and to improve the security of the nation's computer networks.

Republican governors and lawmakers in particular have used the myth of rampant voter fraud to push new laws and restrictions that marginalize voting rights across the country, from cutting back on early voting and limiting changes in registration to raising barriers for voters to access the ballot. Gov. Rick Scott and his elections chief, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, attempted a disastrous purge of noncitizens of the voter rolls shortly before the 2012 election that used bad data and triggered an uprising from county elections officials and intervention by the Justice Department. A secure elections system benefits all American voters, regardless of political party. But there is no such thing as widespread voter fraud.