800,000 Illegals Voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016-Disputed!

Summary of eRumor:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and right-leaning news sites have said research shows that more than 800,000 non-citizens voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

The Truth:

The claim that more than 800,000 non-citizens voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election is based on data from a 2014 study about how frequently non-citizens vote in U.S. elections.

The study, entitled, “Do Non-Citizens Vote in U.S. Elections,” was conducted in 2014 by researchers at Old Dominion University using data collected from elections in 2008 and 2010. Claims that hundreds of thousands of non-citizens voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election are based on the researcher’s conclusions about the percentage of non-citizens who voted in earlier elections:

There is evidence that some non-citizen immigrants voted in both 2008 and 2010. In 2008, thirty eight (11.3%) reported that they voted, had their vote verified, or both. As with registration, claims of voting and validated voting did not intersect very often, in part because the voting question was not asked for all non-citizens who had verified voting, and voter file matches were not available for all non-citizens who claimed that they voted. Twenty seven indicated that “I definitely voted in the November General Election” and 16 had validated general election votes. Only five (1.5%) both claimed that they definitely voted and had a validated vote. In 2010 thirteen non-citizens (3.5% of respondents to the post-election survey) indicated that they voted. All 2008 and 2010 reported votes by non-citizens were in violation of state election law as no votes were cast by non-citizen respondents from the Maryland localities which allow non-citizen voting.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pointed to the 2014 study to support Donald Trump’s claims that “millions” of illegals voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, costing him the popular vote enroute to securing enough delegates to win the Electoral College. When asked by reporters for evidence to support that claim, Spicer replied“that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who voted were noncitizens.”

It’s since been noted, however, that Spicer was actually referring to the 2014 Old Dominion University study — and that no such 2008 Pew study exists to support those claims.

In response, Jesse Richman, an associate professor of political science who co-authored the 2014 study, blogged on January 24, 2017, that the study did not support Trump’s or Spicer’s claims about “millions” of illegals voting for Clinton:

Here I run some extrapolations based upon the estimates for other elections from my coauthored 2014 paper on non-citizen voting. … 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.

However, right-leaning media outlets quickly seized on Richman’s blog post as evidence that Trump’s general claims that illegals voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 — just not as many as previously thought. Ultimately that gave rise to viral reports that 800,000 illegals voted for Clinton, reinforcing voter fraud claims.

But some experts have disputed whether the original data used to make claims about non-citizens voting in the 2014 study, and in the 2016 election, is not correct. First, Richman himself wrote an editorial in 2014 that detailed the study’s limitations, not the least of which is unreliable self-reporting about illegal voting.

And Brian Schaffner went even further in a commentary published by Politico, going as far to call the 2014 non-citizen voter study “nonsense” — and, indirectly, all voter fraud claims based on it. Schaffner reports that Richman’s findings were based on measurement errors in the data sets, not actual voter fraud:

The biggest source of error with the Richman study was its use of one of the survey questions to identify “non-citizens.” Survey respondents occasionally select the wrong response by accident—perhaps because they are rushing through and not reading the questions carefully, because they do not fully understand the terminology being used, or because they simply click on the wrong box on the page. Such errors are infrequent, but they happen in any survey. In this case, they were crucial, because Richman and his colleagues saw the very small number of people who answered that they were “immigrant non-citizens,” and extrapolated that (inaccurate) number to the U.S. population as a whole.

How do we know that some people give an inaccurate response to this question? Well, we actually took 19,000 respondents from one of the surveys that Richman used (the 2010 study) and we interviewed them again in 2012. A total of 121 of the 19,000 respondents (.64 percent) identified themselves as immigrant non-citizens when they first answered the survey in 2010. However, when asked the question again in 2012, 36 of the 121 selected a different response, indicating that they were citizens. Even more telling was this: 20 respondents identified themselves as citizens in 2010 but then in 2012 changed their answers to indicate that they were non-citizens. It is highly unrealistic to go from being a citizen in 2010 to a non-citizen in 2012, which provides even stronger evidence that some people were providing incorrect responses to this question for idiosyncratic reasons.

In conclusion, claims that more than 800,000 non-citizens voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 are based on data extrapolated from a 2014 study that relied on data from 2008 and 2010. And significant questions have been raised about the 2014 study’s conclusions about voter fraud and non-citizen voting. Given all that, we’re left to call claims that 800,000 non-citizens voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 “disputed.”

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Collected on: 02/02/2017

Did more than 800,000 non-citizens vote for Hillary Clinton in 2017?