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By Sean Gorman November 29, 2016

Trump's Pants on Fire for claiming 'serious voter fraud' occurred in Virginia

President-elect Donald Trump has peppered his Twitter account with a charge that the presidential election was marred by voter fraud in Virginia and two other states that he lost.

"Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias," Trump said in a Nov. 27 tweet.

It was the last in a series of 13 tweets in which Trump, without evidence, claimed "millions of people" across the nation voted illegally on Nov. 8, robbing him of a plurality of popular votes - even though he won the crucial majority of Electoral College votes. The latest returns show Democrat Hillary Clinton drew about 2.3 million more popular votes than Trump, a Republican.

Our colleagues at PolitiFact National looked into Trump’s claim that millions voted illegally and rated it Pants on Fire. We investigated Trump’s claim about Virginia, to see whether "serious voter fraud" occurred in the state.

Clinton won Virginia, garnering 1.98 million votes compared with Trump’s 1.77 million, according to tallies posted by the Virginia Department of Elections. In other words, she got about 210,000 more votes than Trump.

We emailed Trump’s campaign and his transition team to learn the basis of his fraud claim but did not get a response.

As news of Trump’s comments swirled, the Virginia Department of Elections issued a prepared statement from Commissioner Edgardo Cortes batting down the president-elect’s statement.

"The claims of voter fraud in Virginia during the November 8 election are unfounded," Cortes said. "Virginia's election was well administered by our 133 professional local registrars, with help from hundreds of election officials and volunteers who worked to guarantee a good experience for eligible Virginia voters. The election was fair and all votes cast by eligible voters were accurately counted."

Martin Mash, a policy adviser for the Department of Elections, told us in an email that the department has not received any specific allegations of vote fraud during the Nov. 8 election. Vote-fraud allegations would be forwarded to law-enforcement officials, he said. Michael Kelly, a spokesman for Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, said in an email that his office has not received any reports of illegal voting in this election.

We contacted John Fredericks, who was chairman of Trump’s Virginia campaign. He said on Election Day that officials from from Trump’s campaign and the state GOP set up a call center in Richmond to take reports of voting irregularities. Although the center received hundreds of calls, nothing caused great concern, he said.

Fredericks told us he is not aware of any "massive voter fraud on Election Day" beyond "many isolated incidents" of people voting without having proper identification who wanted provisional ballots.

Fredericks added that flaws in the state’s election system allow avenues for illegitimate ballots and that there are "real examples of real potential voter fraud or the groundwork for voting fraud being laid."

For example, Fredericks pointed to a well-publicized case from Harrisonburg where 18 to 20 people who died ended up on voter rolls. The FBI is probing that case of potential voter fraud. But it should be noted that that this irregularity was discovered in September - well in advance of Election Day.

Another case being prosecuted in Alexandria involves what appears to be a relatively small number of fake voter registration applications, and it was also found before Election Day, the Richmond Times-Dispatch noted in an article this week.

We also emailed the Republican Party of Virginia for its take on Trump’s "serious voter fraud" claim. GOP Chairman John Whitbeck said state Republicans are deferring to the incoming White House administration for a response to Trump’s claim.

A final note: Our colleagues at PolitiFact New Hampshire and PolitiFact California also gave Pants on Fire ratings to Trump’s claim of serious voter fraud in those states.

Our ruling

Trump said there was "serious voter fraud in Virginia" during this presidential election.

The top state election official in Virginia says the charge is "unfounded." The former chairman of Trump’s Virginia campaign says he’s unaware of any "massive voter fraud on Election Day."

There’s a burden on Trump to prove his sensational claim, and the president-elect offers no evidence. We rate his statement Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

Donald J. Trump tweet, Nov. 27, 2016.

Virginia Department of Elections statement, Nov. 28, 2016.

Interviews with John Fredericks, former Virginia chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Nov. 28, 2016.

Email from David D’Onofrio spokesman for the Republican Party of Virginia, Nov. 28, 2016.

Email from Martin Mash, policy advisor for the Virginia Department of Elections, Nov. 28, 2016.

Email from Michael Kelly, spokesman for Attorney General Mark Herring, Nov. 28, 2016.

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump’s Pants on Fire claim that millions of illegal votes cost him popular vote victory," Nov. 28, 2016.

PolitiFact California, "Pants on Fire for Trump’s claim about ‘serious voter fraud in California," Nov. 28, 2016.  

PolitiFact New Hampshire, "Trump claims ‘serious voter fraud’ in New Hampshire," Nov. 28, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "GOP state lawmaker calls for removal of Virginia’s top elected official," Oct. 13, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Civil rights group sues Virginia election officials over registration outages," Oct. 18, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Trump claims ‘serious voter fraud in Virginia’ but state ally says no ‘mass scale’ fraud reported," Nov. 28, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Investigation is launched after dead people are registered to vote in Harrisonburg," Sept. 29, 2016.

The Washington Post Fact Checker, "Trump camp’s repeated use of dubious sources on voter fraud," Nov. 29, 2016.

Pew Center on the States, "Inaccurate, costly and inefficient: Evidence that America’s vote registration system needs and upgrade," Feb. 2012.

Monkey Cage Blog at the Washington Post, "Could non-citizens decide the November election?" Oct. 24, 2014.

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump wrongly says 14 percent of non-citizens are registered to vote," Oct. 22, 2016.


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Trump's Pants on Fire for claiming 'serious voter fraud' occurred in Virginia

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