President Donald Trump on Wednesday called for “a major investigation into voter fraud” that seeks to probe a number of issues that Maine Gov. Paul LePage has also raised repeatedly.

Neither man has provided a single provable example to back up their claims that election results were tainted.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who called the issue a thinly veiled effort by Republicans to suppress the vote, said that if anyone was manipulating election results, victories by Trump and LePage show they didn’t have much skill.

Besides, he said, pulling it off “would take an inside job of almost-biblical scale.”

Trump raised the issue in two early-morning tweets that called for a probe that would include those registered to vote in two states, “those who are illegal,” and those who are still on the rolls, despite their deaths.

“Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” the president wrote.


Experts said there are always some dead people who are registered because it takes some time to update government records and that some people are registered in more than one place, usually by accident.

Reporters quickly found a couple of examples of people registered in two states: Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and Trump’s nominee for secretary of the treasury, Steve Mnuchin. But neither voted more than once.

Dunlap said the only complaint he received about last year’s election in Maine was an allegation that someone had voted in two places. When he checked, though, he learned that the voter had sought an absentee ballot in his hometown but never used it. He wound up voting elsewhere, Dunlap said.

Many Democrats said the voter fraud issue is itself a scam meant to lend support to Republican efforts to make voting more difficult for young people, the elderly and others who are more apt to be stymied by new restrictions.

“If this is the beginning of an effort to suppress legitimate voters from exercising their rights, I will fight like hell against it,” vowed U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

Dunlap, a Democrat, said the voter fraud talk is “part of a national script” by the GOP that wants to “make it harder for people to vote.”


But Republicans have a different take.

They say that requiring photo identification cards for those seeking to vote isn’t a serious hardship and goes a long way toward ensuring that the polls are secure. Maine’s Legislature is slated to take up a proposal to require IDs from those seeking to vote.

State Rep. Brad Farrin, R-Norridgewock, is sponsoring the measure. He said he has no interest in suppressing the vote. He said he just wants to add a simple step “to have more integrity in the process,” in part to answer critics who worry about the possibility of anyone voting improperly.

“I don’t subscribe that there’s widespread voter fraud,” Farrin said.

Trump has cited claims by Greg Phillips, a former Texas Health and Human Services Commission deputy commissioner, that 3 million votes were cast illegally. But Phillips has never provided any evidence for his assertion.

Trump’s own lawyers said in court papers challenging a recount effort that “all available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”


The president’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, appeared Wednesday to say the investigation would focus on states where Trump lost Nov. 8.

“There’s a lot of states that we didn’t compete in where that’s not necessarily the case,” Spicer said during a press briefing. “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.”

Dunlap said LePage called for him to prove that undocumented immigrants hadn’t vote in Maine. Dunlap said that’s impossible.

“That’s like saying that I can’t assure people there isn’t pollution on the moon from NASA,” he said.

Though there isn’t anything solid to show any voter or election fraud in 2016 —beyond a few people who cast more than one ballot — history provides many examples in years past.

Dunlap said that during the past 150 years, there have been “a few colorful episodes of true voter fraud” in a number of places.


One of the big steps toward combatting it, he said, was the decision in the 1890s to use pre-printed ballots rather than letting political parties provide the slips to voters.

Voter registration laws followed.

Now there are reams of rules governing even the smallest steps in the voting process that state and local officials patrol on a bipartisan basis throughout Maine and in most other states.

“It’s a little like baseball,” Dunlap said. “There’s a rule for everything and a reason for the rule.” 

Things can sometimes happen, though.

Dunlap pointed to ballot tampering in Maine a quarter-century ago that occurred because boxes of ballots were mailed in by town clerks for a recount and then stored unsecured in a first-floor conference room in the State House.


“It was begging for abuse and some people succumbed to the temptation,” Dunlap said.

Two legislative aides broke into the boxes to alter ballots in a bid to boost the chances of two Democrats involved in close House races, a scandal that ultimately led voters to impose term limits on the Legislature.

Now there’s a complex process with sealed, tamper-proof boxes transported by police to make sure it can’t happen again, Dunlap said.

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