It has been more than three years since Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. It has even been more than three years since states passed their “safe harbor” deadlines, the point by which their presidential election results needed to be finalized and certified.
For more than three years, in other words, there has been no credible question about Trump’s electoral loss. And yet, here we are, with Trump elevating a mind-bogglingly ridiculous poll to suggest — yet again and baselessly — that the election was somehow stolen from him.
“THIS IS THE BIGGEST STORY OF THE YEAR,” Trump hollered on his social media site, Truth Social. “AND REPUBLICANS MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.” His party, he added, needed to “TO MAKE A MOVE NOW. GET TOUGH, GET SMART. OUR COUNTRY IS BEING STOLEN!”
The trigger for this outpouring of capitalization? An announcement from the right-wing Heartland Institute that, according to a poll conducted by the right-wing Rasmussen Reports, “One-in-Five Mail-In Voters Admit to Committing at Least One Kind of Voter Fraud During 2020 Election.”
Yes, you read that correctly. The claim is that fully one-fifth of those who cast a mail-in ballot three years ago committed fraud. Where does this noncredible assertion originate? From Rasmussen’s purported survey of 1,085 “likely U.S. voters.”
Rasmussen has long offered results that skew more favorably to Republican candidates. (This is generally attributed to its focus on “likely voters,” a designation it defines that holds little meaning a year before an election.) In recent years, Rasmussen has fallen into the pugilistic pattern of so many other prominent voices on the right, elevating falsehoods about the 2020 election and, more disconcertingly, frequently conducting polls centered on “proving” rhetoric from the right-wing culture war.
So it conducted this poll for Heartland, asking respondents if they voted in 2020, how and then whether they engaged in various verboten activities related to their ballots. According to their results:
“17% of mail-in voters admit that in 2020 they voted in a state where they are ‘no longer a permanent resident.’”“21% of mail-in voters admitted that they filled out a ballot for a friend or family member.”“8% of likely voters say they were offered ‘pay’ or a ‘reward’ for voting in 2020.”
This instantly fails the smell test. A fifth of voters said they voted in a state where they no longer live? About 6 in 10 Americans have never moved out of the states in which they were born. Half of the rest, we are meant to believe, committed an obvious form of election fraud three years ago.
Without, I’ll add, being detected by any authority or by any of the thousands of people who, eager to prove Trump right, have been looking for examples of fraudulent voting. Those professional and amateur sleuths have also somehow not found evidence showing that 1 in 12 absentee voters — millions of people! — were offered cash for their votes. This would seem like it might leave a trail.
Rasmussen did provide a breakdown of the responses by demographic group, which does not exactly help Trump’s argument that the election was being stolen from him. After all, a quarter of the Republicans they interviewed said they also voted by absentee ballot, and their admissions of these federal crimes matched the rates of admission by Democrats.
Bear in mind that, according to Rasmussen, 8 in 10 Republicans said they voted for Trump. That’s well below Pew Research Center’s validated assessment of the election, but regardless: This suggests that a lot of this “illegal” voting presumably resulted in ballots cast for Trump.
Even under perfect conditions from a pollster that aims to eliminate as much bias as possible, questions demanding that respondents recall what they did in the past are notoriously iffy. To assume that there was rampant fraud because a partisan pollster generated numbers showing that an incredible — or rather, noncredible — number of voters “remember” having done things that violate the law is ridiculous.
After three years of trying to convince everyone that the election was stolen, though, Trump will take what he can get.