President Trump’s political machine is looking to capitalize on a conspiracy theory about non-citizens voting in the 2018 election, in order to fight the Florida gubernatorial and Senate recount.
On Wednesday, the Trump campaign sent out an email accusing Democrats of “trying to overturn our Republican victories in Florida” and manifesting ballots “out of thin air.”
The email claimed, without proof, that Democrats “fought to include votes from people WHO ARE NOT EVEN UNITED STATES CITIZENS.”
Democrats in Florida dismissed the claim as a baseless accusation.
“This is another lie and conspiracy theory being peddled by President Trump,” Caroline Rowland, spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party, told ThinkProgress. “Florida Democrats have been fighting to see that every ballot that was lawfully cast is counted.”
The recounts in Florida’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races have been the target of bitter fights over election law and recount timeframes familiar to many Floridians.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who currently leads in his U.S. Senate challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), said on Fox News Sunday that Nelson’s “lawyer said that a non-citizen should vote.” (Untrue.)
The Democrats’ main recount attorney, Marc Elias, debunked that claim later, saying an unidentified lawyer in an unofficial court transcript evidently tried to raise an unspecified objection to a judge throwing out a ballot because the voter who cast it was not a citizen. Elias stated that “the lawyer who was present was not someone we had authorized to make such an objection. Non-citizens cannot vote in U.S. elections.”
Elias has been personally attacked by Trump on Twitter as an “Election stealing lawyer.”
As soon as Democrats sent their best Election stealing lawyer, Marc Elias, to Broward County they miraculously started finding Democrat votes. Don’t worry, Florida – I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018
In addition to Scott’s false assertion, it’s likely not a coincidence that the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted a link to a 2012 story two days prior to the Trump campaign email. The headline for that article claimed “nearly 200,000 Florida voters may not be citizens.”
“Amazing, but not shocking at all anymore,” he wrote.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) November 12, 2018
Politifact has since rated his assertion as false, saying it “is based on a cherry-picked number from a headline that didn’t tell the full story back in 2012.”
Fact Check by Ballotpedia looked into whether non-citizens voted in October 2016. The site found that, in 2012, media outlets and Florida officials claimed to have discovered hundreds of non-citizens — not the 200,000 from Don Jr.’s tweet — registered to vote in the state. Of that group, only “some” had potentially voted. It did not uncover any solid numbers, and also did not find any groups defending the idea that non-citizens should vote, nor groups that were pushing to get non-citizens to vote.
Florida attempted a massive purge of its voter rolls in 2012, using the specter of non-citizens voting as an excuse to push out hundreds of thousands of people. In the end, officials caught just one person from Canada who was prosecuted for voter fraud.
Trump has, of course, blamed his 2016 popular vote election loss, as well as the political haplessness of the California Republican Party on “illegals” voting.
“Now they’re, I guess they were trying to take illegal voters but these are — I’ve been saying, this is a problem all over the country, by the way,” Trump told the Daily Caller this week. “This is what I’ve been saying. This is a problem in California that’s so bad of illegals voting.”
Trump’s conspiracy theory-minded approach to elections and perpetual castigation of non-citizens have had an effect on his supporters. Before the 2016 election, a Morning Consult poll found that 64 percent of Trump supporters believed non-citizens voting was a common or somewhat common phenomenon.