“You can get the nomination; you can win the popular vote; and you can lose the Electoral College - and therefore the election - for these four reasons,” former Secretary of State Clinton said Tuesday at the American Federation of Teachers Shanker Institute Defense of Democracy Forum at The George Washington University. “Number One: Voter suppression.”
"Experts estimate that anywhere from 27,000 to 200,000 Wisconsin citizen voters, predominantly in Milwaukee, were turned away from the polls," Clinton said. "That’s a lot of potential voters. They showed up, but maybe they didn’t have the correct form of identification. Maybe the name on their driver’s license included a middle name or an initial that wasn’t on their voter registration. But officials made every excuse in the book to prevent certain people from voting in that election."
.@HillaryClinton: "You can get the nomination. You can win the popular vote. And you can lose the Electoral College and therefore the election for these 4 reasons. Number One: Voter suppression."— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) September 20, 2019
Hillary now blames "voter suppression" as the reason she lost the 2016 election. pic.twitter.com/rdRKXbJ9SR
Clinton lost Wisconsin’s popular vote by about 22,000, out of 2.97 million votes cast in the cheese-loving state. Nationwide, she won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots, but lost the election overall, since the US operates an Electoral College system, whereby states reward candidates with votes equivalent to their seats in Congress in a winner-take-all system. It’s an antiquated system dating to the drafting of the US Constitution in 1787 that aimed to defuse the power of urbanized states and put a check on popular democracy.
To be clear, voter suppression is a real problem in the United States. A study last month by the Brennan Center for Justice found that 17 million voters had been purged from voter rolls nationwide since the 2016 election, a practice greatly accelerated by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which removed protections dating back to the Civil Rights fights of the 1960s that barred counties with a history of racial discrimination from unilaterally purging their voter rolls.
Some of this happened in Wisconsin, too. Former Governor Scott Walker infamously shoved a new voter ID law through the state legislature in February 2011, while key Democratic lawmakers had walked out of the Madison state house amid a protest by state employees against deep public service budget cut proposals. A Mother Jones report shortly after the 2016 election noted that as many as 45,000 people in Wisconsin were deterred from voting by the law, many of them in Milwaukee, a majority-black city. Neil Albrecht, Milwaukee’s election director, told New Republic at the time that “25 to 35 percent of the 41,000 decrease in voters, or somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters,” were deterred by the photo ID requirement.
However, Clinton’s numbers are way off. They come from a study done in May 2017 by Priorities USA Action, a political action committee that supported her in the 2016 election. The report found that Wisconsin’s voter turnout decreased by 3.3% compared to 2012, whereas it had increased by 1.3% in states that didn’t change their voter ID laws. That’s an extremely broad brush to paint with, and the resulting conclusion is that if Wisconsin’s voter rolls had increased at the same rate, an additional 200,000 voters would have been registered.
A different study by the University of Wisconsin estimated some 12,000 registered voters were affected by the law in Dane and Milwaukee counties in 2016. However, only 1.4% of those affected were actually turned away from the state’s 3,500 polling locations due to lack of adequate ID, the study noted.
"Our measure captures people who both say they were turned away but also people who didn’t even bother because they didn’t think they could vote," Kenneth R. Mayer, a professor of American Politics at UW, told PolitiFact. "Our estimate is that it’s plausible to think that the voter ID law reduced overall turnout somewhere in the range of 1% in these counties, but that doesn’t get you anywhere close to [Clinton’s] numbers."
"There is no possibility that [200,000] happened, because that would have been on the order of 60 people per polling place," Mayer said.
Data from Wisconsin’s Election Commission shows that 67.34% of registered voters turned out on Election Day to cast ballots. That means that, while nearly 3 million showed up to vote and 1.38 million of them voted for Clinton, another 981,000 people who could have voted didn’t bother to at all.
The presumption by Clinton is that these people would have voted for her. But honestly, why would they? Clinton never once visited the Rust Belt state during the entire 2016 election campaign, yet she feels entitled to their votes.
Perhaps the problem isn’t voter suppression, but voter participation? Perhaps it was Clinton’s weakness as a candidate and unwillingness to appeal to Rust Belt voters, proclaiming “America is already great” in an effort to contrast herself to Trump’s nativist nationalism, that actually resulted in a patronizing dismissal of very real problems faced by America’s declining industrial heartland? It’s no wonder nearly a million Wisconsinites decided to stay home that day.
Curiously, Clinton has also sought to downplay studies that prove millions of voters were swayed toward her by sympathetic tech firms. Last month, Clinton initiated a wave of media denunciations of Dr. Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology who has for years supported the Clinton family’s political ambitions, after she derided his research conclusions proving “big tech platforms, particularly Google, can shift opinions about anything, can shift millions of votes, without anyone knowing they’re being influenced and without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace,” he told Sputnik.
Epstein’s studies of Google’s practices revealed the Search Engine Manipulation Effect, which tracked the tech giant as having consistently shown pro-Clinton pages higher in users’ search results than other political stories, resulting in the shifting of up to 12 million fence-sitting voters.