Welcome, Anthony Scaramucci! Here's some research on illegal voting

Newly named White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was asked about whether there were 3 million illegal votes in last fall's election.
Newly appointed White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci answers questions at a press briefing on July 21, 2017. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Newly appointed White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci answers questions at a press briefing on July 21, 2017. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

At his first briefing as White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci acknowledged that he wasn’t ready to answer every question reporters threw at him -- including one about whether there were 3 million illegal votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.

At one point, a reporter asked Scaramucci, "Do you stand by some of the factual claims that have been made by this administration? Three million illegal votes cast for president? Do you now endorse all those statements of fact?"

Scaramucci responded, "So, it's a little bit of an unfair question, because I'm not up to speed on all of that. I'll just candidly tell you that."

The reporter pressed: "He said 3 million people voted illegally."

Scaramucci then said, "Okay, so if the president says it -- let me do more research on it. My guess is that there's probably some level of truth to that. I think what we have found sometimes is that the president says stuff, some of you guys in the media think it's not true. It turns out it's closer to the truth than people think. Let me do more homework on that and get back to you."

We can be of help here.

Last November, PolitiFact gave a Pants on Fire rating to President Donald Trump’s statement that he "won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

In fact, we found zero evidence for Trump’s charge, as well as a lot of reasons to conclude that it didn’t happen.

Almost 3 million vote margin

A comprehensive vote-tracking analysis is published by David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. According to Wasserman’s calculations, Hillary Clinton led Trump by roughly 2.87 million votes -- specifically, 65,853,516 for Clinton, 62,984,824 for Trump, and 7,801,446 for other candidates.

So "3 million votes" would be enough to hand Trump the popular-vote victory as well as an Electoral College victory.

For a sense of scale, 3 million votes is more than were cast for any presidential candidate in three dozen states plus the District of Columbia. And 3 million people is more than a quarter of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States — a group that Alex Jones’ conspiracy website InfoWars specifically singled out as the source of 3 million illegal votes.

As evidence of its claim, InfoWars referred to a report from VoteFraud.org and tweets from Gregg Phillips, whose Twitter profile said he founded VoteStand, a voter fraud reporting app.

However, there was no report from VoteFraud.org, and Phillips told PolitiFact he is not affiliated with that website. Tweets by Phillips on Nov. 11 and Nov. 13 said that "we have verified more than 3 million votes cast by non-citizens" and that Phillips had "completed analysis of database of 180 million voter registrations. Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million. Consulting legal team."

Phillips did not respond to PolitiFact’s queries for additional information. He had told us previously that he has chosen not to release more information because he is still working on analyzing the data and verifying its accuracy. Phillips would not say what the data is or where it came from, or what methodology he used. He said he would release the information publicly once he is finished. He does not appear to have done so publicly.

Voter fraud uncommon

Research of other elections suggests that voter fraud is not widespread.

News21, a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found just 56 cases of noncitizens voting between 2000 and 2011.

• A report by the liberal Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that most cases of noncitizens voting were accidental. "Although there are a few recorded examples in which noncitizens have apparently registered or voted, investigators have concluded that they were likely not aware that doing so was improper," reads the 2007 report.

• In 2012, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration started an effort trying to crack down on noncitizens voting by comparing driver's license data against voter rolls. The Florida Department of State created a list of 182,000 potential noncitizens that had voted. That number was whittled down to 2,700, then to about 200 before the purge was stopped amid criticism that the data was flawed given the number of false positives — including a Brooklyn-born World War II vet. Ultimately, only 85 people were removed from the rolls.

Meanwhile, ProPublica, an investigative journalism project, tweeted that "we had 1,100 people monitoring the vote on Election Day. We saw no evidence the election was ‘rigged’ " and "no evidence that undocumented immigrants voted illegally."

Experts unconvinced

Experts dismissed the substance of Trump’s claims about the election.

"This is patently false," Costas Panagopoulos, a Fordham University political scientist, told us in November. "There would need to be a massive national conspiracy and coordination effort to do this, and illegal aliens would need to be on the voter rolls in states across the country months earlier to be eligible to vote. It is also very convenient the estimated fraudulent vote is just enough to give Trump the popular vote. Not likely a coincidence."

University of Denver political scientist Seth Masket said the claim was short on basic logic.

"It’s bizarre to claim that Clinton had the ability to generate millions of illegal voters but not use them to help her win the Electoral College," Masket said.