Republicans are ramping up election fraud claims ahead of November

Forget election season; election denial season has officially kicked off.

Over the last few weeks, Republican legislators have held committee hearings as well as introduced and passed legislation preventing noncitizens from voting — something that is already illegal in state and federal elections, and very rare. Former President Donald Trump has ramped up his claims that the 2024 election will be stolen — even above and beyond his typical portending. The cast of the 2024 veepstakes have all been toeing the line on election denialism. And let's not forget the hundreds of election-denying candidates running for election or reelection up and down the ballot.

"This effort has the effect, and perhaps has the intent, of planting the seeds of doubt about an election that some Trump supporters must think he might lose," said David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research.

There was a moment in the weeks following the 2022 midterm elections where it felt like maybe, just maybe, the election denial trend was starting to fade. Voters had roundly rejected election-denying candidates, including in some of the most high-profile races on the ballot, and the vast majority of candidates who lost their election conceded, including even some of the most dedicated election deniers. But it's become clear over the past few weeks that Republicans are not yet ready to abandon the election denial narrative and are instead angling to make it a central issue come November.

Last week, Republicans in Missouri placed a measure on the ballot that would ban noncitizens from voting in the state; GOP-controlled legislatures have also placed similar questions on the ballot in Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, South Carolina and Wisconsin. And earlier this month, the U.S. House Administration Committee held a hearing on "preventing noncitizen voting," while other bills — including one introduced by House Speaker Mike Johnson — have attempted to create additional voting requirements to ostensibly curb noncitizen voting.

But, in case it isn't obvious, it is already a crime for noncitizens to vote in state and federal elections. It's a crime that carries the risk of prison time and deportation, and there's simply no evidence that it happens on any kind of scale. A 2017 study of 42 jurisdictions by the voting-rights group the Brennan Center for Justice found just 30 incidents of potential noncitizen voting in the 2016 general election that were flagged for further investigation — out of 23.5 million votes. Even the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute has debunked the idea that noncitizens vote in significant numbers.

Republicans have also taken aim at local laws allowing noncitizens to vote in some local elections, such as for school board. Last week, the House (all Republicans along with 52 Democrats) passed a bill that would repeal a Washington, D.C., law allowing noncitizens to vote in municipal elections. While the question of noncitizens voting in local elections is a legitimate policy debate, Republicans speaking in favor of the bill seemed more interested in conflating it with the nonissue of widespread, illegal voting of noncitizens at federal or state level. New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, for instance, talked of "our nation's own capitol allowing illegal immigrants to vote in illegal elections," while Johnson went so far as to suggest that, if the bill didn't succeed, it would "be proof positive that there are some Democrats who want illegal aliens deciding election outcomes."

Meanwhile, Trump has been ramping up his election denial claims and predictions on Truth Social, the social media site he had built after he was booted off X, then called Twitter. There, amid more standard political fare of endorsements and favorable media clippings, Trump has been firing off baseless accusations that a plot is already underfoot to steal the 2024 election from him. In particular, he has claimed that the criminal charges against him and the current trial in Manhattan amount to, in his words, "ELECTION INTERFERENCE!"

And Republicans jockeying to be chosen as Trump's running mate, when asked whether they would accept the results of the 2024 election, have repeatedly demurred or suggested they may not. While it's not surprising that Rep. Elise Stefanik, who voted not to certify the 2020 election results, has refused to commit to accepting the results of this year's election, even Republicans who voted to certify or clearly accepted the 2020 results are starting to backpedal and refuse to commit to doing the same this time around. Notably, Sen. Tim Scott, who voted to certify President Joe Biden's win in 2020, refused to answer when asked if he would accept a Trump defeat in 2024, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum — who called the Jan. 6 attack "reprehensible" and affirmed Biden's win — has refused to say either way.

Roughly the same percentage of Americans believe the 2020 election was stolen today as did in 2021. Polling from YouGov and The Economist in April showed 36 percent of Americans said Biden did not legitimately win, similar to the 38 percent who said so in April 2021 — making it clear what kind of lasting impact this rhetoric can have on voters' perception of an election's legitimacy. It also raises the specter of a repeat of the violence we saw on Jan. 6; meanwhile, threats against election workers have continued in the four years since the last presidential election.

"These lies are setting the stage for incitement of, potentially, violence in the post-election period," Becker said.

Despite being, in general, a losing position to take in 2022 midterms, election denialism continues to be the Republican tack as long as Trump remains the captain, and it could once again have very serious repercussions if he isn't victorious in November.

Republicans are ramping up election fraud claims ahead of November originally appeared on