By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times (March 29, 2017) — More than 90 political scientists have signed an open letter calling for the blacklisting of studies done by Virginia professors who estimated that thousands, and perhaps millions, of noncitizens register to vote and vote illegally in U.S. elections.
Political science professor Jesse Richman of Old Dominion University in Norfolk is one of three academics who have produced research on noncitizen voting. The research has irked liberal professors who contend that their surveys show that “zero” of some 20 million noncitizens vote in the U.S.
The anti-Richman study professors circulated an open letter that states: “The scholarly political science community has generally rejected the findings in the Richman et al. study and we believe it should not be cited or used in any debate over fraudulent voting.”
Mr. Richman discussed the “open letter” in his ODU blog entry, titled “Why I would sign the ‘open letter’ if it were true.”
“I’m not signing it because it contains several critical distortions and mistakes,” Mr. Richman wrote.
President Trump contends that millions voted illegally in the 2016 election, and most backed Democrat Hillary Clinton. He says he plans to appoint a task force to investigate.
Mr. Richman has accused the Trump team of misconstruing his studies, and says there was not enough noncitizen voting to change Mrs. Clinton’s popular vote success. But he stands by his team’s basic finding that a significant number of noncitizens illegally register to vote.
Conservative activists are driving the anti-fraud vote movement, without much help from establishment Republicans.
Mr. Richman and his associates relied heavily on the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), spearheaded by Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere, other scholars and the polling firm You.Gov. The biennial study on voters and their views is produced by a consortium of 28 universities. Its lengthy questionnaire inquires about voters’ citizenship status, and a significant number of respondents anonymously acknowledged they were not citizens when they voted.
The most frequent journalistic synopsis of Mr. Richman’s studies is that 38,000 to as many as 2.8 million noncitizens voted in the 2008 presidential election.
“I agree with the authors of the letter that the upper end of this interval may have played an unfortunate role in the president’s rhetoric,” Mr. Richman wrote. “I have, as noted above, attempted to push back against this. I will continue to do so as I think it is important that people not get fooled by an extreme upper end estimate that is almost certainly way way way too high.”
Mr. Ansolabehere and others wrote in a 2015 rebuttal to Mr. Richman and his fellow researchers that the CCES sample size of people who said they were noncitizens was too small, and that respondents in some cases had changed their status from noncitizen to citizen. Mr. Ansolabehere did not sign the open letter.
Mr. Richman responded to the rebuttal: “These critical tests lack statistical power.” He has published a point-by-point explanation for why he and his colleagues’ work is basically sound.
“We show that even if their response error argument is correct, there is still significant evidence of non-citizen participation in the U.S. electoral system,” Mr. Richman wrote.
Separate from the CCES study, a 2013 National Hispanic Survey found that 13 percent of noncitizen Hispanics said they were registered to vote. Within the margin of error, that percentage could mean that 800,000 to 2.2 million noncitizen Hispanics are registered, based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics for that demographic, a nonprofit research group told The Washington Times.
There are firm examples of noncitizen voting.
The Times earlier this month reported on a civil lawsuit filed by voters against Frederick County, Maryland.
The plaintiffs acquired documents and could compare lists of disqualified noncitizens for jury duty with voter registration rolls. The research found that nearly 180 noncitizens were registered to vote in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and that 63 actually voted. What a more comprehensive analysis of voter rolls would show is unknown since Maryland does not do such cross-checking.
In Virginia, the Public Interest Legal Foundation discovered that 1,000 noncitizens registered to vote in six countries and two cities. Of them, 200 voted.
Mr. Richman ended his blog post by saying that academics should debate all studies rather than boycott them.
“Ultimately, I believe that the debate over fraudulent voting can best advance through a thoughtful exchange of views rather than an attempt to discourage citation or consideration of any study,” he said.
Tom Fitton, president of the watchdog group Judicial Watch, which operates an anti-voter fraud unit, backed Mr. Richman’s findings.
“The Left is desperate to preserve the ability to steal elections, so a blacklist of inconvenient but valid research would be par for the course,” Mr. Fitton said in an email. “Judicial Watch has analyzed the study and believe it to be solid research.”