At least 45,000 illegally voted twice in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Government Accountability Institute (GAI).
The nonprofit obtained voting data from 21 states and looked for instances where the same person cast a ballot twice. It discovered 8,471 “highly likely” cases of duplicate voting, and based on that, estimated there were 45,000 cases nationwide.
The GAI initiative was partly motivated by President Donald Trump’s panel to investigate voter fraud, called the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, that he started in May.
GAI was co-founded by Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist.
GAI only counted people who appear to have double-voted using the same name and birthday. It didn’t look for people who voted illegally using different names or who voted despite being ineligible (like illegal immigrants, permanent residents, felons, and the underaged). GAI also didn’t count people with missing birth data.
Since some people share the same name and birthday, GAI used a commercial service (provided by marketing analyst firm Virtual DBS) to check the voters’ background to add more information, like social security numbers.
“The probability of correctly matching two records with the same name, birthdate, and social security number is close to 100 percent. Using these match points will result in virtually zero false positives from the actual matching process. If there are false positives, they would most likely be the product of errors in data sourcing and/or human error at the polling places,” said Brad Mitchell, chief executive of Virtual DBS, in the July GAI report.
Most of the suspected double voters cast ballots in two different states.
GAI couldn’t get data from all states, mostly because of prohibitively high fees. GAI was willing to pay under $3,000 per state, but some states wanted $5,000 to $10,000 and Alabama and Arizona each charged nearly $30,000.
States like New Hampshire, Illinois, Virginia, Indiana, Massachusetts, and others told GAI they only provide voter data to law enforcement and political parties or political entities.
GAI also found 15,000 people who registered to vote under invalid addresses, mostly post office boxes or UPS store locations.
While 45,000 represents only tiny fraction of the nearly 137 million who voted in the 2016 election, it can make a difference in states won by thin margins. For example, mere 537 votes won Florida for George W. Bush in 2000, securing his second term and win over Al Gore.
Trump previously said millions of people voted illegally in 2016. The claim was possibly based on the estimates by Just Facts, a public policy think-tank. It analyzed online survey data from YouGov, a market research firm, and concluded that 1.2 million to 3.6 million non-citizens illegally voted in the 2012 presidential election. The large range stems from limitations in the survey data.