Election Lawyer Blasts ‘Lunacy’ of MSNBC Denying Voter Fraud

Appearing on MSNBC during the 11 a.m. ET hour on Monday, attorney and former Republican National Committee counsel Mark Braden denounced an attempt by anchor Tamron Hall to dismiss claims of voter fraud as “extraordinarily rare” and “minuscule.” He also called her out for citing statistics from liberal “advocacy group” that she labeled “nonpartisan.”

Hall began the discussion by touting that slanted source: “We’ve cited this before, but I'll remind people. According to a study by the nonpartisan Brennan Center – this is in 2007 – and they were discussing how extraordinarily rare voter fraud would be.” She added: “And looking at some of the numbers from different organizations, as well. Arizona State, for example, they found in 2012, just 2,000 cases of election fraud nationwide in the year 2000. So the numbers are minuscule.”

While Braden acknowledged that “our election system actually works quite well,” he immediately corrected her “nonpartisan” claim:

I wouldn't call Brennan Center nonpartisan, I think they’re pretty much an advocacy group. But the notion that vote fraud doesn't exist, is, of course, lunacy. People steal cars, people steal money, why anybody would think you wouldn't steal votes is a mystery to me. Vote fraud is rare but it absolutely occurs, and sometimes occurs on a massive basis.

In fact, the Brennan Center’s so-called “Democracy Agenda,” spelled out on its website, is a left-wing wish list of supposed electoral “reforms,” among them: Overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, establishing public financing of campaigns, and restoring voting rights to convicted felons.   

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Braden related a case of “massive” voter fraud from his own experience, recalling the 1982 Illinois gubernatorial race:

I did a recount in Illinois of the governor's race. I went to the Chicago Board of Elections, where they explained to me that vote fraud was a Republican illusion. And a Chicago Times reporter explained the same thing to me. But when we got done with the recount, the grand jury report showed that 10% of the Chicago vote was made up on election night. That's 110,000 votes. So the notion that vote fraud doesn't happen is a joke. It does happen.

Hall condescendingly replied: “Well, I mean, listen, I think we all agree pretty much anything you can think of outside of a unicorn walking in the studio does happen. But does it have a significant impact that so should taint how we see our process?”

The Heritage Foundation has complied a database of over 400 cases of voter fraud in recent years that resulted in criminal convictions in all 50 states.         

Perhaps Hall was upset because she originally brought Braden on to bash Donald Trump. She opened the segment: “On his website, Trump is calling for supporters to volunteer as election observers to, quote, ‘Stop crooked Hillary from rigging this election!’ Trump has also voiced strong support for North Carolina's voter ID law....one of the toughest in the nation.” Turning to Braden, she asked: “What is your take, though, on Donald Trump setting the stage for a ‘rigged’ election?”

After Braden refused to cooperate with that narrative, Hall tried to regain control of the exchange by pointing out his comments in a Sunday New York Times hit piece against Trump: “However, you said in this article, the election system, as you just pointed out, ‘the United States generally works extremely well,’ were your words, ‘and fraud, although real, is modest’....you were quoted as saying you were worried that this could backfire, potentially, in some tight Senate races.”

Braden replied: “Well, I've seen people make unfounded accusations of fraud.” He cited the “utter nonsense” of Democrats claiming that George W. Bush stole the 2004 election and explained: “So people make wild accusations. One shouldn't let the nonsense of wild accusations blind to the possibility of real indiscretions. So it’s a balancing act.”

In the Times article, Braden noted the rarity of voter fraud, but also called for “A more measured, thoughtful discussion of the issue...” He never denied its existence in past elections or the possibility of it happening again in the future.

Here is a full transcript of the August 22 exchange:

11:25 AM ET

DONALD TRUMP: Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don't come in and vote five times. The only way we can lose, in my opinion, I really mean this, Pennsylvania, is if cheating goes on. I really believe it.

TAMRON HALL: And that was Donald Trump campaigning in Pennsylvania last week, ranting about a rigged election in November. On his website, Trump is calling for supporters to volunteer as election observers to, quote, “Stop crooked Hillary from rigging this election!” Trump has also voiced strong support for North Carolina's voter ID law, which is currently under appeal after a federal court found it discriminatory. North Carolina’s voter ID law is considered, by the way, one of the toughest in the nation. Joining me now, Mark Braden, former general counsel for the Republican National Committee. Mark, thanks for your time, I greatly appreciate it.

MARK BRADEN: Good morning.

HALL: We’ve cited this before, but I'll remind people. According to a study by the nonpartisan Brennan Center – this is in 2007 – and they were discussing how extraordinarily rare voter fraud would be. And looking at some of the numbers from different organizations, as well. Arizona State, for example, they found in 2012, just 2,000 cases of election fraud nationwide in the year 2000. So the numbers are minuscule. What is your take, though, on Donald Trump setting the stage for a “rigged” election?

BRADEN: Well, our election system actually works quite well. I wouldn't call Brennan Center nonpartisan, I think they’re pretty much an advocacy group. But the notion that vote fraud doesn't exist, is, of course, lunacy. People steal cars, people steal money, why anybody would think you wouldn't steal votes is a mystery to me. Vote fraud is rare but it absolutely occurs, and sometimes occurs on a massive basis. I did a recount in Illinois of the governor's race. I went to the Chicago Board of Elections, where they explained to me that vote fraud was a Republican illusion. And a Chicago Times reporter explained the same thing to me. But when we got done with the recount, the grand jury report showed that 10% of the Chicago vote was made up on election night. That's 110,000 votes. So the notion that vote fraud doesn't happen is a joke. It does happen.

That said, the system generally works well. And the problems generally arise in the context of absentee voting or collusion of poll workers.

HALL: Well, I mean, listen, I think we all agree pretty much anything you can think of outside of a unicorn walking in the studio does happen. But does it have a significant impact that so should taint how we see our process? I lived in Illinois, very familiar with what you were discussing just now with some of the voter issues there.

However, you said in this article, the election system, as you just pointed out, “the United States generally works extremely well,” were your words, “and fraud, although real, is modest.” That's not the picture that's coming from your party's nominee. With that said, you were quoted as saying you were worried that this could backfire, potentially, in some tight Senate races. Why do you believe that?

BRADEN: Well, I've seen people make unfounded accusations of fraud. In the [John] Kerry race versus [George W.] Bush in Ohio, there was a long article, front-page article, on the Rolling Stone where [Robert F.] Kennedy [Jr.] wrote a piece saying that the – that, in fact, John Kerry won Ohio because the Republican Party had rigged the voting machines in Ohio. And of course, that was utter nonsense. So people make wild accusations. One shouldn't let the nonsense of wild accusations blind to the possibility of real indiscretions. So it’s a balancing act.

Most of our elections work extremely well, but there are places where they don't. And in those places, we need to be concerned. Asking people to be poll workers and working in our polling places are, in fact – that's the best guarantee for a good system. A good system has people working for both parties in polling places around the country as poll workers watching the process.

HALL: And campaigns often do expect that kind of – and ask for that kind of monitoring, not just Republicans, on both sides there’s always a concern. Thank you so much, Mark, for your time.

BRADEN: Thank you.

HALL: Great pleasure having you on.

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