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What, exactly, is Rand Paul talking about?

By Chris Cillizza, CNN Politics | December 17, 2020

On Wednesday [12/16], the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing designed to look into fact-free claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. And Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of President Donald Trump's most ardent defenders, was front and center -- making wild claims about what happened (and didn't) on November 3.

"The fraud happened," insisted Paul. "The election, in many ways, was stolen. And the only way it will be fixed is by, in the future, reinforcing the laws."

His examples?

1. Dead people voting

2. Non-citizens voting

The problem, of course, is that there is simply no evidence of either of these things happening broadly.

Let's take the dead people voting allegations first.

There's this from, a nonpartisan fact check site:

"Claims of dead people voting are often overblown after elections. In some cases, it is a matter of a relatively small number of people dying in the period between when they sent in a mail-in ballot and Election Day. More commonly, claims about large numbers of votes from deceased people turn out to be due to list-matching or clerical problems, such as confusing two people with identical or similar names, Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at MIT who specializes in elections, told us via email."

In Michigan, where Trump allies were particularly vociferous in their claims of dead people voting, a CNN analysis after the elections found not a "single instance of that happening." In Georgia, the story was the same. And in Pennsylvania.

Add it all up and you get this: There's just no evidence -- NONE -- of widespread voter fraud in which dead people voted.

Now for Paul's claim about non-citizens voting.

Do non-citizens sometimes slip through the cracks in the system and cast ballots? Yes. Is it anywhere close to affecting the results even in a closely contested state? The evidence strongly points to "no."

This, from a USA Today fact check, is illuminating on that point:

"Whether voting by mail or in-person, registrants voting in a federal election supply evidence of their residence, a signature or another form of verification when submitting a ballot, according to Robert Brandon, founder of the Fair Elections Center.

"'The handful of times when people try to do something, they're caught and they're indicted. ... It's only a handful of individuals and that's not going to change an election,' Brandon told USA TODAY about voter fraud."

To be clear: Any incident in which someone who was not eligible to vote in the 2020 election but did so is worth noting -- and working to correct. But it is not evidence of widespread fraud that indicates -- in Paul's words -- that "in many ways, the election was stolen."

If Paul doesn't know that, he hasn't been paying attention. And if he does know it, well, then he's just scoring points for political purposes while actively undermining one of the core principles of American democracy.

Either way, he's not doing the job of a US senator.

CNN's Allison Gordon contributed to this report.

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