Conservative group claims widespread mail-in voter fraud cost Trump 2020 election

Large boxes of envelopes are seen as absentee ballot election workers stuff ballot applications at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4, 2020.
Large boxes of envelopes are seen as absentee ballot election workers stuff ballot applications at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4, 2020. | LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images

A conservative think tank claims that a recent survey conducted in partnership with Rasmussen Reports shows that over a quarter of Americans engaged in ballot fraud during the 2020 presidential election, drawing questions about the study's methodology. 

The Heartland Institute released a report earlier this month claiming to show that widespread absentee ballot fraud in the 2020 election likely caused Republican incumbent Donald Trump to lose the presidential race. The report comes as Trump and some supporters have repeatedly claimed election fraud cost him the election in the last three years. 

The highlighted findings included 21% of mail-in voters admitting that, in 2020, they voted in a state where they are "no longer a permanent resident," 21% admitting to filling out "a ballot for a friend or family member," 17% saying they "signed a ballot for a friend or family member 'with or without his or her permission,'" and 19% saying that a friend or family member "filled out their ballet, in part or in full, on their behalf."

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When looking at "raw survey data," the researchers concluded that 28.2% of survey respondents "who voted by mail admitted to committing at least one kind of voter fraud."

"Because Joe Biden received significantly more mail-in votes than Donald Trump, we conclude that the 2020 election outcome would have been different in the key swing states that Donald Trump lost by razor thin margins in 2020," the report added.

"Ultimately, our study shows that of the 29 different scenarios presented in the paper, Trump would have won the 2020 election in all but three (when mail-in ballot fraud is limited to 1–3 percent of the ballots counted)."

Jack McPherrin, one of the report's authors and the director of Heartland's Socialism Research Center, told The Christian Post in an interview that he "was personally surprised by the results."

"In the aftermath of the 2020 election, I was skeptical of President Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud and its potentially significant impact upon the election," said McPherrin.

"With that said, as I researched the issue more heavily and as more information about potential mail-in voter fraud came to light, I became more open to the idea that illegal ballots were widespread, and did impact the results."

When asked why numerous state-sponsored investigations had failed to discover this alleged fraud, McPherrin responded that he believes it was because "none of these investigations asked voters whether they did any of the things our poll asked about."

"These investigations focused on potential fraud associated with voting machines and about behavior at polling places by election officials, such as throwing out ballots. The easiest type of fraud to commit is the kind of fraud that was not investigated," he said to CP.

"There are many forms of illegal voting that aren't going to come up in such investigations. For instance, if multiple people live in the same home, perhaps one person is filling out the ballots for the rest of his or her family, who either don't know or don't care."

McPherrin said that even if "the person filling out the ballots has 'permission' to do so, such action renders the ballot invalid, other than in exceptional circumstances."

When Rasmussen announced the initial results of the survey in December, the organization was critiqued by multiple individuals, including David Thornton of The Racket News.

"I'll start by saying that two things are glaringly obvious if you read the article with a skeptical eye. One is that Rasmussen makes a giant leap in claiming that helping a family member or friend to fill out an absentee ballot is 'cheating' or 'election fraud,'" wrote Thornton.

"The second is that Rasmussen does not claim that these helpers marked the ballots contrary to the wishes of the absentee voters. The statement that helping someone fill out their ballot is illegal is questionable at best."

Thornton stressed that the state he lives in — Georgia — allowed people to assist others in filling out their absentee ballots, adding, "Rasmussen did not ask whether assistance was provided in accordance with state and local laws."

"The point is that modern security techniques make it very difficult to run a large-scale fraud operation," Thornton continued. "If a voter shows up at the poll and finds that their ballot has already been cast by an absentee, the whole scheme blows up. It also blows up if signatures and identifying information don't match."

In an interview with CP this week regarding the new report, Thornton said Heartland "does not provide evidence that people who assisted in filling out ballots did so against the wishes of the ballot holder."

"Mail voting laws vary by state so it isn't clear that the respondents broke the law in many cases. Heartland does not provide evidence that people who assisted in filling out ballots did so against the wishes of the ballot holder," Thornton said.

"In the case of people who claim they voted out of state, they don't provide evidence that they voted more than once in different states. In most cases, the poll respondents are simply saying that they helped someone fill out a ballot. That's not illegal."

While it is "possible to commit fraud in one or two cases of family members," Thornton said it would be "very difficult to mount a large enough fraud operation to sway an election without being noticed."

"There were a multitude of fraud claims in 2020, but the claims that were made in court and under oath were starkly different and less inflammatory than the claims made on television and the internet," he said.

"Those claiming widespread fraud impacting election results failed to present evidence that would stand up in court when they had the chance."

McPherrin told CP he believes Thornton's arguments misrepresent the survey questions, such as the question asking if someone filled out "a ballot for a friend or family member."

"There is nothing in the question about 'helping' or 'assistance.' And, while there are instances in which designated parties are allowed to help voters with disabilities — such as blind, disabled, or illiterate persons — it is hard to imagine that such instances are widespread," McPherrin responded.

"The act of filling out a ballot constitutes voting, as it is a necessary condition to making a vote effective and included in the totals of votes cast. Our poll respondents all voted in 2020. This means that filling out another ballot constituted voting more than once, rendering the ballot illegal, except under … limited exceptions." 

In December 2021, the conservative legal organization Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty released its own report on the 2020 election, concluding that there was "no evidence of widespread voter fraud." 

WILL researchers hand recounted 20,000 votes from 20 wards with "no evidence of fraudulent ballots" and also reviewed 29,000 ballot certificates in 29 wards. However, the report also stated that the group believed the election "was not adequately secure."  

Although Trump and his supporters maintain that the 2020 election was "stolen," others, including former members of his administration, have rejected such accusations.

For example, shortly after the 2020 election, Trump's Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press that he had "not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election."

In 2022, Alyssa Farah, former White House communications director for Trump, and Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, both told the Jan. 6 Committee that Trump had admitted in private that he had lost the election.

Last week, it was reported that True the Vote, the group tied to the Dinesh D'Souza documentary "2,000 Mules," stated in court that they cannot provide the evidence supporting their claims that there was widespread illegal ballot stuffing in Georgia during the 2020 election. 

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