12.06.16

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee Statement On Voting Rights

An editorial this morning in The New York Times is entitled, “Why the Lies About Voting Fraud?”  That is a question that many of us who have been fighting for the right to vote have been asking for decades.  Ten years ago this Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act.  During the course of many Senate and House Judiciary Committee hearings we fought against the false narrative that in-person voting fraud was at all common in our country.  The evidence clearly and irrefutably shows that it is not. 

But of course that evidence does not stop those partisans who are determined to make it harder for Americans to cast their votes.  Right after five justices on the Supreme Court gutted the core protection of the Voting Rights Act, several states led by Republican majorities enacted voting restrictions that made it harder for many Americans to vote.  

It is most troubling that our President-elect has decided to himself make an unfounded charge of widespread voting fraud.  I can imagine he is disappointed in the fact that he did not win the support of a majority of Americans who voted last month but we should all hope that when our next President is presented with unfavorable realities he will not resort to spreading information that has no basis in fact.  That cannot be the standard of American leadership. 

In an article published in The Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H., and reprinted this morning in Vermont Digger, researchers at Dartmouth explored President-elect Trump’s allegation of widespread voting fraud and they found nothing to support his claim, noting “voter fraud concerns fomented and espoused by the Trump campaign are not grounded in any observable features of the 2016 presidential election."  Many other analyses have also made this crystal clear.  In a report to Congress, the Government Accountability Office concluded that “no apparent cases of in-person voter impersonation [were] charged by DOJ’s Criminal Division or by U.S. Attorney’s offices anywhere in the United States, from 2004 through July 3, 2014.”  That is the reality.  And yet, Republicans, including the President-elect, continue to peddle lies about voter fraud.

This year we have seen a dangerous uptick in what some call “fake news.”  These are articles that have no basis in reality or factual evidence but they are broadly circulated because they affirm a particular ideology, or because they are a proven way to make a quick buck by drawing the attention of unsuspecting online readers.  Fake news stories get attention, and clicks.  Some consider this despicable propaganda to be harmless, but it certainly is not without its victims.  We know that the spread of lies through fake news can have real world consequences, even for the public’s faith in the republic itself.  There is no doubt that is how Russia sees it.  

It should not be too much to ask that our elected officials operate on facts and reality.  We will have many debates over policy in the years to come but Americans deserve leaders who refuse to peddle in lies for political gain.  And I call on leaders on both sides of the political aisle to no longer defend the indefensible.   

I ask that the New York Times editorial, “Why Does Donald Trump Lie About Voter Fraud?” be included in the Record.

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