Anatomy of a lie: Illegal Voting


Numbers matter. Context matters.

Reality matters.

But you would get nothing of the sort when clicking through a misleading (and false) Breitbart headline blasted to the top of the alt-right homepage:


What what what? 800,000+ votes from “illegal aliens”? After all those Secretaries of State from both parties blasted such claims? Sounds like another Soros con job from where this Keyboard Cowboy is sitting.

Then you click the link and read Ben Kew’s article.


Research claims it. That connotes rigorous applied science and vetting.

But you’re intrigued and you read a little more.headline

ODU. Legit university. Estimates, but potentially plausible given the number of noncitizens in the US. It’s a university study and not some weird Dr. Nick upstairs college.

Then this—not only did this illegal voting occur but, BUT, the extrapolation of the data shows the 800,000+ illegal votes could have been enough to help President Trump win EVEN MORE states than his November tally.

Not only are “illegals” taking our jobs, they’re taking our states!


But Breitbart can’t have come across this bombshell political gamechanger on its own, could it?

They link to the Washington Times and that paper’s take on the Richman study.

But the original headline is a little different.

times-headWe go from the clickbait on the Breitbart page of “HILLARY CLINTON RECEIVED” like it is a thing that VERY MUCH OCCURRED to…Trump could be onto something—she “could have received.”

But if the Breitbart article, or even just the headline, is what captures your attention, well, you have a scientist from a serious university telling you she’s a cheater.

The Times goes down the rabbit hole, though. They explain some of of Richman’s math and methodology. They touch on some of the recent flaps over illegal voting allegations. Then the key argument: Okay, so maybe *millions* of “illegals” didn’t vote, but *nearly* one million did, so Trump is still right. And hey, maybe his “landslide” would have been even better!


Yet if I want to read the actual study and dive into these details myself…I can’t. While they quoted Richman in the article and the math is explained in some detail, the Times chose not to provide a URL back to the original study.

So I found it anyway.

And a December update helps clear up some of the clutter:


Oh. Well then. Like any scientist using large data sets, Richman is doing his best to analyze voting patterns given *estimated* undocumented immigrant self-selecting poll response. Logical leaps perhaps, but the intent is worth exploring in a university setting.

Oh. Wait again. There’s *another* post on his site. 


So non-scientists misread university data science and pass it up the food chain in the same disturbing game of internet telephone that harmed our election coverage.

And of course, as expected, despite the *author of the actual study* calling the reportage “deceptive,” the falsehoods and fever dream wish fulfillment provides much needed mana for the multi-headed hydra of Infowars, Fox News, Townhall, WND, etc.

So what about Richman, huh? What’s that guy’s deal?

I called him this afternoon to ask. He returned my call in less than an hour.

“The Washington Times story made it seem like we had some new 2016 analysis and data. We don’t,” the professor said.

Richman clearly sounded exhausted from dealing with emails and bad takes on his work. He explained that the study was simply an effort to use previous data science and voting information as a hypothetical.

A speculative exercise in math meant to give the benefit of the doubt to Trump’s claims.

“I wanted to make the point that even if you take the 2008 estimate seriously, it doesn’t get you to 3 to 5 million illegal votes,” he said.

The President is wrong and his supporters are even more incorrect for citing Richman’s work.

“Ironically it’s being used by them to prove their assertion,” Richman said.

Of the headlines and leading quotes, he said “I think that was quite potentially misleading.”

So if the Times and others are so far off base, I asked simply, did the newspaper use quotes from the study and did they actually call you before publishing?

“They never spoke with me about this,” he said. “I sent an email to most of their editors today to add my comment.”

So far that has not happened. But I got a great conversation after waiting just 45 minutes at 3pm on a Friday, so it can be done.

You could say it’s…plausible.

So follow the logic, and question how articles get their findings and results. Find the primary sources for evidence presented by journalists. Always.

(Also, people cannot be “illegal.” So use the term “undocumented immigrant,” please)


One thought on “Anatomy of a lie: Illegal Voting

  1. Never let the “facts” get in the way of a good story.

    Also, I’m sure they tried calling him for comment. Maybe they walked out to the street and shouted for him… his fault for not being within earshot.

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