January 24, 2017.

Although Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed today that millions voted illegally in the November 2016 election, on November 28, 2016 I published the following statement indicating that our analysis does not support his claim. Since then, no new data, facts or analyses have emerged that require us to revisit or change the findings of the 2014 study to which Mr. Spicer refers. We stand by our findings.

What we posted in on November 28, 2016:

Donald Trump recently suggested that his deficit in the popular vote to Clinton might be due entirely to illegal votes cast, for instance by non-citizens.  Is this claim plausible?  The claim Trump is making is not supported by our data.

Here I run some extrapolations based upon the estimates for other elections from my coauthored 2014 paper on non-citizen voting.  You can access that paper on the journal website here and Judicial Watch has also posted a PDF.  The basic assumptions on which the extrapolation is based are that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted, and that of the non-citizens who voted, 81.8 percent voted for Clinton and 17.5 percent voted for Trump.  These were numbers from our study for the 2008 campaign.  Obviously to the extent that critics of my study are correct the first number (percentage of non-citizens who voted) may be too high, and the second number (percentage who voted for Clinton) may be too low.

The count of the popular vote is still in flux as many states have yet to certify official final tallies.  Here I used this unofficial tally linked by Real Clear Politics.  As of this writing Trump is 2,235,663 votes behind Clinton in the popular vote.

If the assumptions stated above concerning non-citizen turnout are correct, could non-citizen turnout account for Clinton’s popular vote margin? There is no way it could have.  6.4 percent turnout among the roughly 20.3 million non-citizen adults in the US would add only 834,318 votes to Clinton’s popular vote margin.  This is little more than a third of the total margin.

Is it plausible that non-citizen votes added to Clinton’s margin.  Yes.  Is it plausible that non-citizen votes account for the entire nation-wide popular vote margin held by Clinton?  Not at all.

If the percentage of non-citizens voting for Clinton is held constant, roughly 18.5 percent of non-citizens would have had to vote for their votes to have made up the entire Clinton popular vote margin.  I don’t think that this rate is at all plausible.   Even if we assume that 90 percent voted for Clinton and only 10 percent for Trump, a more than fourteen percent turnout would be necessary to account for Clinton’s popular vote margin.  This is much higher than the estimates we offered.  Again, it seems too high to be plausible.

December 1st Update

Like so much on this issue, this posting has taken on something of a life of its own, and I want to emphasize and clarify some points that seem to be generating confusion as echo chambers pick this up and re-post it.

  1.  This post is not intended to make a specific claim on my part concerning how many non-citizens voted in 2016.  It has a much narrower aim.  My goal was to show that an extrapolation from my coauthored work on the 2008 election to the 2016 election did not support the arguments some seemed to be making that the entire popular vote margin for Clinton was due to illegal votes by non-citizens.  In this post I do my own calculation of that extrapolation for the purpose of demonstrating that this extrapolation would not support that claim.
  2. There are a number of reasons why one should be cautious about extrapolating from the 2008 CCES data to 2016.
    1. Many things can and have changed over the course of eight years.  For example, a number of states have made efforts to use matching of records to remove non-citizen registrants from voter rolls.  For example, on this blog I have recently highlighted data from Virginia and North Carolina concerning such matching efforts.  These non-citizens are no longer on voter rolls.  There are other states that have been even more aggressive about the issue of attempting to verify that registered voters are citizens.  Furthermore, although the evidence from our 2014 paper suggests that it is only partially effective, many states have moved to adopt tighter identification requirements.
    2.   The 2008 estimate is inherently uncertain.  It depends upon a number of assumptions including assumptions about the validity of the survey data. Our critics have made a variety of arguments and I encourage readers to evaluate those arguments along with our responses to them.  The underlying study on which the extrapolation is based has been the subject of some cogent criticisms, and this leads me to believe that the actual rate of non-citizen involvement is on the low end of our initial estimates rather than anywhere close to the high end.
  3. In the absence of other data, arguably an extrapolation from the earlier (2008) numbers is the best one can do.  But one should recognize that this is an extrapolation fraught with a great deal of uncertainty.


All postings on this website represent the opinions, analyses, and interpretations of the author alone.