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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Trump A "Sore Winner" For Alleging Massive Vote Fraud?

It's rather a challenge to choose the most egregious and patently false "alternative fact" to come out of the Trump administration since its inception, but the one the president laid on Congressional leaders in a meeting last week may take the cake.

But it's early.

President Trump – who lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes but won the Electoral College – repeated his apparently long-held belief that three to five million "illegal votes" cost him the popular vote.

Trump doubled-down on this claim in a White House interview with ABC  News Wednesday, where he said the following:

"You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegal, who are in two states,'' the president said. "They're registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion."

And, oh, by the way, Trump has pointed out, none of those illegal voters cast ballots for him.

There is no question that on the voter rolls of most states there are people who shouldn't be there.

Did some illegal voters cast ballots? Probably so. But they are more likely to number in the hundreds than the millions.

It's hard to find anyone outside the Trump White House – no Republican, no Democrat, no political scientist, no elections officials – who believes for a minute that three to five million people voted illegally in last November's election.

"Voter fraud does exist,'' Ohio's Secretary of State, Jon Husted, a Republican, told WVXU. "But it's rare. It's not systemic."

Husted says he can't speak for other states, but, in Ohio, he says it is "easy to vote and hard to cheat."

On Wednesday, after standing by his claim of millions of illegal voters, Trump called for a "major investigation" into voter fraud. As his tweets said, the investigation will include "those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and…even those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long  time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!"

As of Saturday afternoon, Trump had yet to sign the executive order for the vote fraud investigation. 

Trump is hanging his hat on a 2012 Pew Center on the States on the nation's voter registration system. It found that, at the time, 1.8 million deceased people were listed as voters and approximately 2.75 million have registrations in more than one state.

States' voting systems, the study said, "must be brought into the 21st century to be more accurate, cost-effective and efficient."

We have read this report and nowhere does it suggest that millions of people are voting illegally.

Friday morning, the president tweeted that is he is looking forward "to seeing the final results of VoteStand. (VoteStand founder) Greg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better!" 

Phillips first made the claim in November, a few weeks after the election; and has refused all media requests to see his data. 

Husted made the point that while the president wants a nationwide study, he believes this is better left to the states.

The Ohio Secretary of State's office conducts an audit after every election. The audit of the 2016 election is on-going, Husted said.

According to Husted, approximately 8.7 million Ohioans voted in the two previous statewide elections, 2012 and 2014. He said that of that 8.7 million, 667 "voting irregularities were found" and 149 were referred to law enforcement for further investigation. Most of them ended with no one being prosecuted.

There were 22 people who were registered in more than one state; and, in those two elections, there were 436 non-citizens on the voter rolls.

"We're doing the job here; and voter fraud is very rare in Ohio,'' Husted said. "If the federal government wants to be a partner with the states in studying the voter registration system, that's fine. But I don't want the federal government coming in here and trying to run our elections. That is a state function."

In Kentucky, the chief elections officer is a Democrat, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, put out a statement Wednesday and blasted the president's assertion of massive voter fraud.

"Four days ago, President Trump took the oath of office in an inauguration ceremony that signified the smooth transition of power in our country,'' Grimes said. "That transition was borne of the democratic elections process – the best in the world – in which I have unshakable faith.

"President Trump's assertion that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election is completely unsubstantiated,'' Grimes said. "It's simply not true. Continual false claims regarding the integrity of our voting process should offend every voter of every political persuasion."

Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper said if Trump wants an investigation, he should have at it.

"What he's going to find is that he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes,'' Pepper said.

Pepper said he is not sure if this is simply a matter of Trump's ego taking over or if there is another agenda at work.

"Is he raising the specter of voter fraud to clamp down on voter rights?," Pepper said. "Is he just a man who has a hard time dealing with the fact that he lost the popular vote or is he looking for ways to suppress votes?"

Democrats and their allies have gone to court repeatedly in Ohio and elsewhere  to fight what they consider to be Republican attempts to make it more difficult for voters – particularly African-Americans – to vote. It's a charge that Republican election officials vehemently deny.

Since Trump's allegations of massive voter fraud, there have been torrents of columns written online and in newspapers saying that raising doubts about the 2016 vote is just eroding Americans' confidence in the electoral system.

Mack Mariani, associate professor and chair of the political science department at Xavier University, said he's "never seen anybody who believes there are millions of people out there voting fraudulently."

But Trump's idea of a review of voter registration and illegal voters is not necessarily a bad idea, Mariani said.

"It's reasonable to say that, in 2000, when (George W. Bush) became president by a 600 vote margin in Florida, that there might have been 700 illegal voters in Florida,'' Mariani said. "I don't know. But it's possible."

There is nothing wrong with states taking to clean up their voting rolls of people who have moved, have died or who simply aren't qualified as citizens to vote, Mariani said.  

"Is this undermining democracy?'' Mariani said. "I don't think so.

"Trump says crazy things all the time; he's always over the top,'' Mariani said. "But when the other side says that democracy is at risk, that's over the top too."

So Trump, if he likes, can have his Justice Department conduct an investigation of the voter rolls of all 50 states in search of people registered illegally. Fine. Great.

But, in the end, Trump will be president because he won 304 electoral votes and he will have lost the popular vote by nearly three million.

And he'll end up being a sore winner. 

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.