Montana’s Secretary of State says he’s unaware of a voter fraud problem in the state after President Donald Trump announced Wednesday a “major” investigation into the 2016 election.
“I’m reluctant to guess what the president is talking about; it wasn’t really specific,” Corey Stapleton, a Republican who won the secretary of state job in the recent election, said.
Stapleton referred to the announcement of the voter-fraud investigation, which came from Trump’s Twitter account. The investigation would look into people who are registered in more than one state, “those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”
Depending on results, Trump tweeted, “we will strengthen up voting procedures!”
The president was expected on Thursday to announce and sign a directive moving forward with an investigation on his claims.
Stapleton said Montana likely has a few isolated incidents of what would be considered voter fraud, but it’s usually a mistake on the voter’s part, not an active attempt to undermine democracy.
He said he hears from county clerks about examples of an older resident filling out an absentee ballot weeks ahead of the election, forgetting they did so, and then showing up to vote at their polling place on Election Day, or college students who haven’t changed addresses yet.
In most cases, the clerks are able to identify these issues, and unless there are two ballots cast, it’s not voter fraud.
“It’s certainly not a huge issue here,” Stapleton said of voter fraud.
The Associated Press reported that aides in the new administration say Trump has been fixated on his loss of the popular vote in the election and a concern that the legitimacy of his presidency is being challenged by Democrats and the media.
Trump’s own attorneys dismissed claims of voter fraud in a legal filing responding to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s demand for a recount in Michigan late last year.
“On what basis does Stein seek to disenfranchise Michigan citizens? None really, save for speculation,” the attorneys wrote. “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”
Secretaries of state across the country have dismissed Trump’s voter fraud claims as baseless. After the president’s Wednesday tweets, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted wrote on Twitter, “We conducted a review 4 years ago in Ohio & already have a statewide review of 2016 election underway. Easy to vote, hard to cheat.”
Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, has twice stepped into the fray himself, including on Tuesday, when he doubled down on Trump’s false claim that he lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million people living in the U.S. illegally cast ballots.
In Montana, Stapleton said he hopes the best for the Republican president, and for Trump to settle into his new role a bit more so the administration can start forging a new path forward.
“My impression is he’s still kind of in campaign mode,” Stapleton said. “I think he tends to paint himself in a corner on some of the things he says.”
There haven’t been any directives from federal officials to investigate, and Stapleton said such an investigation across all 50 states would be quite the undertaking, since states run their own elections.
“This is a state’s-rights thing. You could get collaboration across state lines, but it’s really 50 different states doing their own thing,” Stapleton said. “I don’t even know how you would do that if you were going to launch an investigation.”
With Thursday’s announcement about a further investigation still yet unknown, Stapleton said he’s looking forward to Trump’s presidency and a new direction for the country under his leadership.
“I certainly want President Trump to be successful. I’m looking forward to the first 100 days and him laying out the vision, but I don’t know where he’s going or what he’s privy to (in regard to voter fraud allegations) because we don’t see it here,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this reporting.