Prevalence of Voting Fraud using Heritage Foundation numbers

I know that facts matter in politics far less than slogans, catchwords and emotionally resonant advertising, we see that everyday here in America and worldwide. Still, this constantly repeated complete lie about massive voter fraud in US elections has gotten under my skin — it will be the vehicle for Trump claiming victory in an election he is expected to lose by millions of votes. The “rigged election” cry could also be the opening salvo in a bloodbath, armed white supremacists are not expected to take this election rigging lying down. So, for the peace and prosperity of our great nation, let’s take a moment to look at the facts about voter fraud.

I got the vote totals for national elections 2000-2018 from this website My arithmetic gave a total of 1,089,090,347 votes cast in the ten most recent national elections (I show my work below). I divided this number of votes by the Heritage Foundation’s claimed 1,296 incidents of proven voter fraud in recent elections (their Election Fraud database goes back to 1982, there was one in 1983, none in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989 or 1990 and a few other years, oddly enough). In 2016 they list 62 cases of fraud, out of 138.846,571 votes cast — I used the total of every fraudulent vote they claim for the last 20 national elections.

The Brennan Center’s investigation that resulted in its report The Truth About Voter Fraud gave incident rates of between 0.00003% and 0.0025% (3 hundred thousandths of 1% to 25 ten thousandths of 1% — a pretty wide range in the statistically insignificant– unless somebody mistyped some zeros) for the prevalence of voter fraud [1].

For purposes of extreme New York Times-style fairness, I’m treating the Heritage Foundation’s numbers as accurate and condensing them into the 18 year period 2000-2018 for which I’ve tallied national votes. Doing this drives the fraud prevalence number twice as high (since their fraud claim includes twice as many years) but let’s give this repeatedly debunked right-wing talking point about massive voter fraud every benefit of every doubt.

My calculator, dividing the total votes 2000-2018 by the Heritage Foundation’s proven 1,296 cases of fraud since 1982, tells us that voter fraud, 2000-2018, using this worst case scenario that goes beyond the claims of the conservative think thank, occurs in 1 of every 840,347 cases. (Dividing the 2016 votes by the 62 listed by the Heritage Foundation for 2016 gives us 1 case of voter fraud for every 2,239,461 votes, but let’s go with the much higher incidence calculated above).

My math skills are a bit rusty, so please bear with me. Out of 1,089,090,418 votes cast (2000-2018) 10,890,904 would be a one percent fraud rate. 1,089,090 would be a tenth of one percent, 0.1%. 544,545 fake votes (half of that 0.1% number) would be five hundredths of one percent 0.05%. 840,347 per 1 billion plus would appear to be between a tenth and five hundredths of a percent.

Even that tiny fractional of one percent seems too high somehow. The fraction 1/840,347 as a percentage is… shoot, beyond my feeble skills. Counting the places it seems it should be in the 0.000% range. Any help out there?

As far as I can work it out, using the percentage key of my phone, the prevalence of voter fraud seems to be 0.000118984% or 12/ten thousandths of one percent. Wow — a couple of orders of magnitude smaller than that give or take 0.075%, which was my common sense estimate.

But, yo, as Mr. Trump and his lawyers would be quick to point out– WAY, WAY MORE, hundreds of times more, thousands, than that crazy 44/millionths of one percent figure people determined to end the so-called myth of widespread voter fraud once and for all keep trotting out at virtual cocktail parties!

Doing the math, the number of voters in 2016, 138,846,571 divided by 840,347 gives us a stunning 165 fraudulent votes! (Checking this against the percentage I derived makes the percentage 0.00000118984% or 12/millionths of one percent…)

Bear in mind that this highly theoretical 165 (more than twice the number Heritage has for 2016 voter fraud cases) could be considered a significant number of fake votes. Trump became president in 2016 on the strength of a combined 78,000 votes in three swing states, votes which gave him the election-deciding Electors of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan [2].

Though, to be candid, that projected number falls far short of the claimed millions of fraudulent votes investigated and never found by Mike Pence and Chris Koback’s short-lived Presidential Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity [3].

Why is this constantly cited lie about massive voter fraud still allowed to march forward, still allowed to support numerous federal and state lawsuits brought by Trump and his myrmidons [4]?

It is like other muscular zombie beliefs we keep being forced to confront: there is no catastrophic climate change — record heat, record wild fires and record numbers of devastating tropical storms are just… things, nature, science has no idea; there is no systemic racism in the United States, unarmed blacks are scary and need to be dealt with harshly and sometimes too much force is used by patriots doing a very dangerous job; Jared has made peace in the Middle East, defeated the opioid crisis and was splendid in curbing the spread of Covid-19, no country did it better; forcing people to wear disease prevention masks is a form of hysterical left-wing fascist nanny state tyranny, private industry is always superior to government efforts, health care in the US is fine… Go down the infernal list, here you go:

In 2016 Trump won the Electoral College by 78,000 votes spread across Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, so 16,520 votes (under this slow-cooked, bloated number based on a study of almost 40 years of voting fraud by an extreme right “think tank”) could well decide 2020 [3]. If you believe the Heritage Foundation, and why wouldn’t you? It’s a THINK TANK, dummy!

Trump handily took the Electoral College in 2016 — 304 to 227.   He won Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan by a total of 78,000 votes, combined  [1].   This number is 0.000312% of the estimated 250,000,000 American voters.  Of  course, I intensely dislike Mr. Trump, so I have jiggered the numbers to make him look less popular than he actually is. Only about 138,000,000 Americans voted in 2016, in an historic contest between the two most hated political figures in America.   That means Trump’s robust Electoral College margin was actually closer to a convincing 0.000609375%.   A mandate, a historic mandate, really.


  • The Brennan Center’s seminal report on this issue, The Truth About Voter Fraud, found that most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices. The report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Given this tiny incident rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report noted, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
  • A study published by a Columbia University political scientist tracked incidence rates for voter fraud for two years, and found that the rare fraud that was reported generally could be traced to “false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.”
  • 2017 analysis published in The Washington Post concluded that there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim that Massachusetts residents were bused into New Hampshire to vote.



According to the final tallies, Trump won Pennsylvania by 0.7 percentage points (44,292 votes), Wisconsin by 0.7 points (22,748 votes), Michigan by 0.2 points (10,704 votes). If Clinton had won all three states, she would have won the Electoral College 278 to 260.     source

[3] Wikipedia

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PEIC or PACEI), also called the Voter Fraud Commission, was a Presidential Commission established by Donald Trump that ran from May 11, 2017 to January 3, 2018.[1][2] The Trump administration said the commission would review claims of voter fraud, improper registration, and voter suppression.[3] The establishment of the commission followed through on previous discredited claims by Trump that millions of illegal immigrants had voted in the 2016 United States presidential election, costing him the popular vote.[4]Vice PresidentMike Pence served as chair of the commission, while Kansas Secretary of StateKris Kobach served as vice chair and day-to-day administrator.

[4] myrmidon:

a follower or subordinate of a powerful person, typically one who is unscrupulous or carries out orders unquestioningly.

“one of Hitler’s myrmidons” (Google’s example, not mine)

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