After President-elect Donald Trump claimed without evidence that there had been “serious voter fraud” in Virginia, his former campaign chairman for the state said Monday that he was not aware of any “mass scale” fraud.
John Fredericks, a conservative radio talk-show host who chaired Trump’s Virginia campaign, said there were “isolated incidents,” such as the roughly 20 dead people registered to vote in Harrisonburg.
“I was not made aware of any voter fraud in Virginia on a mass scale,” Fredericks said in an interview. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t any.”
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who supported Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, laughed off Trump’s claim while speaking to reporters.
“When you make an allegation, put proof behind it,” McAuliffe said.
Trump, who tweeted the remark Sunday night as part of a stream of messages in which he baselessly claimed he would have won the national popular vote if not for “millions” of illegal votes, specifically named Virginia, New Hampshire and California as states where fraud occurred.
The Republican also claimed the news media are covering up the alleged fraud, saying: “Serious bias — big problem!”
The false applications in Harrisonburg were discovered in September, well before Election Day.
Another voter registration fraud case is being prosecuted in Alexandria, but it also was discovered before the election and appears to involve a relatively small number of phony applications.
Clinton won Virginia by about 212,000 votes. The state uses a combination of paper ballots and touchscreen voting machines that aren’t connected to the internet, making widespread election-rigging all the more difficult.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly also passed a photo ID law pitched as a way to prevent in-person fraud. The measure was opposed by Democrats who said the law was meant to suppress minority votes.
Democrats pounced on Trump’s remark and knocked the president-elect for a claim that Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker called “demonstrably false and irresponsible.”
U.S. Rep.-elect A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat who won the race for the Richmond area’s redrawn 4th District, said Trump should share any evidence he has immediately.
“Without a shred of evidence, Donald Trump is recklessly alleging that millions of Americans who went to the polls and exercised their right to vote have together committed a massive, systemic crime,” McEachin said in a prepared statement. “He is attacking the very citizens he is supposed to lead as president.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Clinton’s running mate, said on Twitter: “Trump’s claim of voter fraud in VA is shameful. @hillaryclinton won VA by 5+ points & popular vote by >2 million. Don’t insult our voters!”
Trump’s transition organization did not respond to a request for clarity on what Trump meant and what evidence he had to support the Virginia claim.
His tweets appeared to be a reaction to the Clinton campaign’s decision to take part in recount efforts in several states that aren’t expected to throw Trump’s victory into question.
John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said: “As far as the statements of the president-elect, we are deferring to the incoming administration who we understand is looking into the matter.”
Last month, two conservative groups focused on elections claimed in a report that they had discovered more than 1,000 non-citizens on Virginia voter rolls.
Some lawmakers and election officials cast doubt on the report’s veracity, saying the authors overstated their findings and didn’t take into account that many people flagged as non-citizens simply may have checked the wrong box on a form.
Republicans also have criticized McAuliffe’s efforts to expand voting rights for felons.
This year, the governor initially attempted to restore rights for more than 200,000 ex-offenders in one executive order, but the number was scaled back to about 67,000 after the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that the sweeping order was unconstitutional, in response to a GOP challenge.
Republicans subsequently claimed that McAuliffe still was overstepping his authority by restoring rights individually after a review process. The high court rejected a GOP request to hold McAuliffe in contempt, allowing the governor to continue restoring rights through his revised process.
In a statement, House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, did not appear to share Trump’s alarm and said Virginia’s election results “have been canvassed and certified.”
“We have every confidence in the local registrars who conducted the election,” he said. “The House will continue to look at ways to strengthen our election process and secure the integrity of our elections.”