Debunking Conservative Myths This Thanksgiving

A meat thermometer that reads "FALSE" inserted into a traditional Thanksgiving turkey

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and like many Americans, you might celebrate the day by gathering with family members and loved ones. Of course, that can also mean spending time with relatives who hold very different political views from you. It’s a tradition almost as American as apple pie — arguing with your relatives about politics over the Thanksgiving meal. Maybe you just want to keep the peace like this family and listen to the new Adele album. But, if you find yourself unable to avoid political talk with your Uncle Bob, we’ve got you covered. Here are five myths you might hear at the Thanksgiving dinner table this year and some facts you can use to combat them.

FACT: Voter fraud is extremely rare.

MYTH: Voter fraud is a serious problem.

While unfounded claims of fraud during the last election were unusually widespread and high-profile last year, it wasn’t the first time losing candidates have alleged fraud. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) argued fraud cost him his reelection race in 2016. Pundit Dick Morris claimed over a million people voted twice in the 2012 election. But merely claiming there’s fraud does not make it true. When pretty much anyone takes a magnifying glass to American elections, they will find that while no election is perfect, voter fraud is exceedingly rare. A study in 2014 found just 31 credible cases of fraud out of more than one billion ballots cast. Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) reviewed 84 million votes cast in 22 states and only referred 14 cases to prosecution — 0.00000017% of votes cast. A 2007 report found that most reported incidents of fraud are actually due to clerical errors or bad data — and that getting struck by lightning is more common than voter fraud. 

FACT: Mail-in voting is a secure way to vote.

MYTH: Mail-in voting is extremely susceptible to fraud.

Last year’s election did differ from past elections in the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots. This led to a different kind of voter fraud claim — that mail-in ballots themselves are uniquely fraudulent and cannot be allowed in a secure election. These claims ignore the fact that mail-in ballots incorporate security features like identity verification, bar codes, ballot tracking, secure drop boxes and post-election audits. In three states where all voters receive mail-in ballots, officials identified just 372 possible cases of fraud out of 14.6 million votes cast by mail in 2016 and 2018, or 0.0025%. Again, mail-in ballot fraud can happen — like the Pennsylvania man who filled out a mail-in ballot for Trump in the name of his deceased mother — but it’s so rare it is unlikely to ever sway the results of an election.

FACT: Arizona’s sham audit found no evidence of fraud.

MYTH: The audit in Arizona is just the tip of the iceberg. 

What happened in Arizona wasn’t really an audit. The goose chase Arizona Senate Republicans undertook was flawed from the very start. The company they hired had no experience auditing an election and their process was resoundingly criticized by election experts and the Republican-majority Maricopa County Board of Supervisors — who conducted their own forensic audit that confirmed the original count in the county. Among the many issues with the “audit” was improper handling of election machines, which meant Maricopa County had to replace $6 million worth of equipment. At the end of the day, Republicans only confirmed what we already knew: there is no evidence to suggest the original canvass of the vote last year was inaccurate in any way.

FACT: There are still barriers that prevent people from exercising their right to vote.

MYTH: Everyone in the country has the right to vote — voter suppression isn’t real.

It’s true that thanks to several amendments to the Constitution, your right to vote can’t be denied based on your race, age or gender. But this right to vote doesn’t mean much if there are other barriers that prevent you from voting. During the Jim Crow era, for instance, Black men technically had a right to vote, but obstacles like poll taxes and literacy tests kept them from actually exercising it in practice. We’ve come a long way since then, but seemingly innocuous factors can still prevent you from voting — especially in communities of color. Maybe the polling place in your neighborhood closed and you don’t have a way to get to another one. Maybe you can’t leave work on Election Day to vote or you can’t get a photo ID — because you don’t have a street address or lack a birth certificate despite being a natural-born citizen. There’s no shortage of apparently minor restrictions that can impede your ability to vote, which is why enacting federal laws like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are so important. They allow you to challenge these restrictions if they infringe on your rights.

FACT: Republicans gained an advantage through recent redistricting.

MYTH: Redistricting favors Democrats.

While ideally redistricting should be neutral, perhaps carried out by an independent commission rather than politicians, in the recent past it has actually tended to favor Republicans. In the last 20 years, Republicans used control of redistricting to increase their share of congressional seats by an average of 9%, whereas the average increase when Democrats controlled redistricting was 0%. Some of the most notorious gerrymanders of the last twenty years were enacted by Republicans, such as the congressional maps in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The Republican advantage from redistricting is expected to continue this decade; preliminary analyses suggest Republicans could win control of the House next year on the strength of redistricting alone. And while House Democrats and Senate Democrats have advanced bans on partisan gerrymandering in near-unanimous votes this year, not a single Republican in Congress has joined them.