Trump tweet watch: Voter-fraud probe & SCOTUS deadline

Give Donald Trump credit for this much — he knows when a strategy works. The new president has continued his practice of setting the narrative of the day through his early-morning tweets in his first week of office. Today’s topics include voter fraud and the Supreme Court, although Trump only mentions the latter to put off an announcement for another eight days.

Trump has complained about voter fraud since before the election, and has repeatedly blamed his popular-vote loss on it. The response has been, “Why aren’t you ordering an investigation into it?” Voila:

That’s a broader look at the issue than just tying it to illegal immigrants, and there’s at least some reason to think that an investigation might produce real fruit. Three years ago, North Carolina election officials discovered a shockingly high number of voters with matching names and birthdates who voted in two or more states in the 2012 election, and hundreds of other cases of voter fraud:

The numbers of potential voter fraud cases revealed Wednesday were gleaned from a cross-checking of voter records among 28 states. It was the first time North Carolina participated in the cross-check process, which was required under sweeping new election laws passed last year by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Specifically, the check found 765 voters whose first and last names, dates of birth and last four digits of their Social Security numbers matched exactly with a voter registered in another state and who voted in both states in 2012. The results also identified 35,750 voters with matching names and dates of birth who voted in North Carolina and another state that year. …

Strach also told lawmakers that a recent “10-year death audit” identified more than 13,400 dead people on voter rolls in October – they have since been removed – and that in about 50 instances, votes were attributed to dead people. The board is investigating to determine whether those cases were precinct mistakes or people fraudulently voting under the names of dead people, she said. Strach stressed that those cases could stem from errors made by precincts, caused by deceased former voters remaining on voter rolls.

The results of that test program — which to date appears to have had no follow-up — offers some succor in both directions. It demonstrates that real fraud does occur, but probably not on the scale where it would generate millions of fraudulent votes, at least outside the issue of illegal immigration. That will be tougher to probe since states have long since given up requiring proof of citizenship or domestic birth in order to register to vote.

Still, a serious investigation of voter fraud is long overdue, if for no other reason to provide solid data on the need and efficacy of voter-ID policies. The North Carolina experience certainly shows that some improvement on checks is necessary. As Guy Benson pointed out at the time, Barack Obama won North Carolina by fewer than 15,000 votes in 2008, which makes those 35,750 potential double votes potentially game-changing in a swing state.

Also this morning, Trump set the announcement date for his Supreme Court pick, but offered no other hints:

CBS News reports it’s now down to two candidates:

The choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia is down to two names — Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch and U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, according to two sources close to the selection process.

Gorsuch has a slight edge — CBS News’ Jan Crawford reported that Gorsuch was the front-runner over the weekend.

But as Mr. Trump narrows the field, “many voices” are “making calls” on Hardiman’s behalf, and he cannot be ruled out, one source said. Hardiman has to be considered a serious contender, just on the heels of Gorsuch.

Hardiman’s personal story of putting himself through college by driving a taxi might have him moving up the chain. Conservatives would be delighted with either, however, and even some Democrats in red-state Senate seats might find both of them juuuuuuuust mainstream enough to give a pass on a floor fight. According to CBS, the point of Trump’s confab with Senate leaders yesterday was to gauge just how much resistance he’d get on his shortlisters — and that may be why William Pryor has dropped off the radar screen.