President Trump’s baseless and desperate claims of a stolen election over the last seven weeks — the most aggressive promotion of “voter fraud” in American history — failed to get any traction in courts across seven states, or come anywhere close to reversing the loss he suffered to Joseph R. Biden Jr.
But the effort has led to at least one unexpected and profoundly different result: A thorough debunking of the sorts of voter fraud claims that Republicans have used to roll back voting rights for the better part of the young century.
In making their case in real courts and the court of public opinion, Mr. Trump and his allies have trotted out a series of tropes and canards similar to those Republicans have pushed to justify laws that in many cases made voting disproportionately harder for Blacks and Hispanics, who largely support Democrats.
Their allegations that thousands of people “double voted” by assuming other identities at polling booths echoed those that have previously been cited as a reason to impose strict new voter identification laws.
Their assertion that large numbers of noncitizens cast illegal votes for Mr. Biden matched claims Republicans have made to argue for harsh new “proof of citizenship” requirements for voter registration.
And their tales about large numbers of cheaters casting ballots in the name of “dead voters” were akin to those several states have used to conduct aggressive “purges” of voting lists that wrongfully slated tens of thousands of registrations for termination.
After bringing some 60 lawsuits, and even offering financial incentive for information about fraud, Mr. Trump and his allies have failed to prove definitively any case of illegal voting on behalf of their opponent in court — not a single case of an undocumented immigrant casting a ballot, a citizen double voting, nor any credible evidence that legions of the voting dead gave Mr. Biden a victory that wasn’t his.
“It really should put a death knell in this narrative that has been peddled around claims of vote fraud that just have never been substantiated,” said Kristen Clarke, the president of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonprofit legal group, and a former Justice Department attorney whose work included voting cases. “They put themselves on trial, and they failed.”
Yet there are no signs that those defeats in the courts will change the trajectory of the ongoing efforts to restrict voting that have been core to conservative politics since the disputed 2000 election, which coincided with heightened party concerns that demographic shifts would favor Democrats in the popular vote.