In criticizing Donald Trump’s unsupported claim that millions of noncitizens swung the popular vote, the media have gone too far in the other direction, dismissing legitimate — albeit merely suggestive — evidence that significant noncitizen voting does occur in American elections. Take the much-discussed study [pdf] by Jesse Richman, Gulshan Chattha, and David Earnest, published in the journal Electoral Studies. Based on a national survey, the authors found that a small percentage of noncitizens do report voting — roughly 6 percent in 2008 — and that their votes might be enough to affect very close elections, such as the Minnesota Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.
The Richman-Chattha-Earnest study was immediately criticized for overinterpreting what might be just measurement error in the citizenship variable. (In other words, citizen voters may have accidentally labeled themselves noncitizens in the survey.) But subsequent robustness tests by the authors show that at least some of the self-identified noncitizen voters in the authors’ dataset really do appear to be noncitizens. I looked into this debate in some depth recently, and I came away feeling that there is still too much uncertainty to draw strong conclusions, but the Richman-Chattha-Earnest study is certainly a valuable contribution.
At Politico, Brent Griffiths apparently disagrees. After a Trump spokesman cited the Richman-Chattha-Earnest study, Griffiths reported it as “debunked” and “refuted,” without mentioning the authors’ responses to the supposed debunking. He even incorrectly characterized their study as focusing on illegal immigrants, when the subjects of the study (and of Trump’s claim) were noncitizens in general.