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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman November 13, 2018
Manuela Tobias
By Manuela Tobias November 13, 2018

Donald Trump Jr. tweets misleading 2012 headline about Florida noncitizen voters

As President Donald Trump floated baseless claims about fraud in the counting of ballots in Florida, his son chimed in on Twitter to imply that the state had a huge number of noncitizen voters.

"Amazing, but not shocking at all anymore. Nearly 200,000 Florida Voters May Not Be Citizens … via @nbc6," Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Nov. 12.

The tweet drew more than 28,000 likes in less than 24 hours. But it isn't accurate. It is based on a cherry-picked number from a headline that didn’t tell the full story back in 2012.

At the outset of the state’s effort to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls, state officials came up with the list of about 182,000 names. But Trump Jr. omits that the final number of noncitizens purged was a tiny speck of that original number.

When examined in the context of all the registered voters — or even ballots cast — in Florida or the nation, proven voter fraud by noncitizens is rare.

History of noncitizen purge

Florida engaged in a controversial attempt to search for noncitizen voters leading up to the 2012 election. The search was rife with errors, and was ultimately dropped after few were found.

Shortly after Republican Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, he asked his top election official at the time to look into removing noncitizens from the voter rolls.

By 2012, the Division of Elections put together a list of potential noncitizens based on driver’s license data.

Trump cited a headline from early in that process. He linked to a May 2012 story on NBC Miami’s website headlined: "2012Election: Nearly 200,000 Florida Voters May Not Be Citizens." The story was written by the Associated Press.

Why was the president’s son sharing a six-year-old story?

Matthew Gertz of the liberal Media Matters website noted that before Trump Jr.’s tweet, conservative pundits publicized the 2012 story. David Wohl, the father of conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl, tweeted a link to the story on Nov. 10, as did Harlan Hill and Charlie Kirk.

Featured Fact-check

On Nov. 12 before Trump Jr.’s tweet, NBC Miami included an editor’s note on top of the original story. First, it reminded readers that the story was published in 2012. Then, it went over the history lesson of how the state’s list contained errors:

The AP had reported that the initial list turned up nearly 182,000 people who may not be U.S. citizens, based on the driver’s license data. Of that group, the state sent an initial list of more than 2,600 voters’ names to county election supervisors.

As we have reported and the NBC editor’s note points out, the state ultimately whitted the list and removed 85 voters because they were "not a U.S. citizen."

Supervisors had noted all sorts of errors and later used words such as "sloppy" and "embarrassing" to describe the state initiative, PolitiFact found. One of the problems was that the driver’s license data doesn’t get updated when a legal resident later becomes a citizen.

By September 2012, when the Division of Elections produced a new list of about 200 ineligible voters, supervisors were fed up, and the effort appeared to fizzle as the presidential election drew near.

The state said it would launch yet another effort to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls almost a year later, but scrapped it.

We were unable to find any other sort of comprehensive data on noncitizen voters removed in Florida. We reached out to the state Division of Elections but did not hear back by deadline.

Jason Snead tracks proven instances of election fraud in the U.S. for the conservative Heritage Foundation, which includes cases that resulted in criminal convictions, fines or an official finding of fraud. He said the database shows 13 entries from Florida involving a noncitizen who successfully registered and/or voted in an election. These cases were from 2003-06.

A May 2017 report by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found that election officials in 42 jurisdictions referred an estimated 30 incidents of suspected noncitizen voting for further investigation or prosecution out of more than 23 million votes.

"The kind of instances in which an individual voter tries to pretend to be somebody else or votes when he or she isn’t eligible are not the statistically meaningful events that we need to be worried about," Myrna Pérez, director of the center’s Voting Rights and Elections project and co-author of the study, said to the Austin American-Statesman.

Our ruling

As Florida underwent a recount of three key races, Trump Jr. tweeted a headline that said "nearly 200,000 Florida voters may not be citizens." He said it was "amazing, but not shocking at all anymore."

It’s actually not true, and years old.

The story itself provides a more complete picture — and an editor’s note with clarifications that Trump overlooked. The state’s 2012 voter purge started with a list of potentially 182,000 noncitizens on the voter rolls. State officials whittled that list to more than 2,600 names sent to county election supervisors. Ultimately 85 noncitizens were removed.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Donald Trump Jr., Tweet, Nov. 12, 2018

NBC Miami, "2012 Election: Nearly 200,000 Florida Voters May Not Be Citizens," May 11, 2012

Miami Herald, "Florida suspends non-citizen voter purge efforts," March 27, 2014

Heritage Foundation, Election fraud cases, Accessed Nov. 13, 2018

Twitter, @MattGertz, Nov. 12, 2018

Washington Post, Donald Trump Jr. tries to cast doubt on the vote in Florida by sharing an already-updated story from 2012, Nov. 12, 2018

Huffington Post, Donald Trump Jr. Uses Debunked 2012 Article To Promote Fake Florida Voting Scandal, Nov. 12, 2018

Austin American-Statesman, "Project Veritas video prompts state probe into possible illegal voting," Nov. 7, 2018

PolitiFact, "Charlie Crist says Florida "put together a list of over 100,000 people that they thought were ineligible to vote. Came out there were less than 10," Sept. 12, 2013

PolitiFact, "MoveOn says Gov. Rick Scott ‘tried to kick 180,000 people off the voter rolls," July 10, 2012

PolitiFact, "U.S. Rep. Hastings says Florida’s noncitizen voter purge is a ‘backdoor poll tax,"June 7, 2012

PolitiFact, "Bill Nelson compares Rick Scott’s voter purge with 2000 attempt," June 5, 2012

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump and Rick Scott allege fraud in Broward, Palm Beach vote counting without any evidence," Nov. 13, 2018

PolitiFact, "Following Trump voter fraud allegations, claim that 5.7 million noncitizens voted is wrong," June 22, 2017

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump says there's 'substantial evidence of voter fraud.' There isn't," Jan. 4, 2018

Interview, Jason Snead, Senior Policy Analyst in the Edwin Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, Nov. 13, 2018

Brennan Center, Noncitizen Voting: The Missing Millions, May 5, 2017

Twitter, Harlan Z. Hill, Nov. 12, 2018

Twitter, David Wohl, Nov. 10, 2018

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Donald Trump Jr. tweets misleading 2012 headline about Florida noncitizen voters

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