“There’s a lot of states that we didn’t compete in where that’s not necessarily the case,” he said. You look at California and New York, I’m not sure that those statements were—we didn’t look at those two states in particular … I think when you look at where a lot of places where a lot of these issues could have occurred in bigger states, that’s where I think we’re going to look.”
Here’s a shorter way to put that: Spicer is saying that Trump will target only states that voted Democratic for his investigation of fraud.
As my colleague Emma Green laid out yesterday in detail, there’s simply no basis for the claim of massive fraud. Activists who push the claim like to say that the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, but repeated investigations, over the course of years, have failed to produce any proof. When the George W. Bush administration spent five years looking for fraud in the 2000s, they came back with effectively nothing. This makes progressives look at warnings about voter fraud as just a pretext for voter suppression: Once the public is made to believe there’s widespread fraud, it will support strict voting laws that require photo ID to vote, restrict early voting, and more. Those laws happen to disproportionately affect minorities, students, the poor, and other demographics that vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
This is not just idle speculation. In North Carolina, the Republican-led government in 2013 passed a voting law that was described as the strictest in the nation. The law’s proponents argued that it was needed to avoid fraud, though they—like everyone else—could not provide evidence of widespread or systematic fraud. In July 2016, a federal court threw out most of the law, finding that it was deliberately designed to suppress the votes of black voters.
It’s hard to know what Trump’s own motivation for harping on the fraud issue might be. Given his easily bruised ego, the idea that he lost the popular vote fair and square seems to rankle him. But those around him have shown a penchant for pushing bogus claims of voter fraud. Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. attorney, infamously prosecuted civil-rights activists for voter fraud after they sought to help elderly black voters in Alabama to register to vote. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has been among the leading national proponents of the claim that there is major vote fraud, has met with Trump and says he is advising him to investigate fraud claims.*
Hearing Spicer say in a press briefing that an executive branch investigation would target only blue states offers some validation for the fear that talk of “voter fraud” is simply an excuse to suppress Democratic votes. It ought to go without saying that the idea that voter fraud is occurring only in Democratic states, or only among Democrats, is illogical. (In December, The Washington Post reported that there were only four prosecutions for voter fraud nationwide related to the general election. Three were of Republicans or Trump voters, while a fourth was of a poll worker.)