Many on social media have accused President Donald Trump of voter intimidation in the lead-up to Tuesday’s midterm elections after he tweeted using all-caps about illegal voting.
In the tweet in question — shared early Monday morning — the president wrote, “Law Enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place in Tuesday’s Election (or Early Voting). Anyone caught will be subject to the Maximum Criminal Penalties allowed by law. Thank you!”
Trump reportedly doubled down on his claim of rampant illegal voting at a rally in Cleveland, Ohio, later Monday, according to the Washington Post. He said to reporters, “There are a lot of people — a lot of people — my opinion, and based on proof — that try and get in illegally and actually vote illegally. So we just want to let them know that there will be prosecutions at the highest level.”
(As The Washington Post and others note, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States.)
Many reacted to the president’s tweet by accusing him of voter intimidation, with one user writing, “This, like most of what you say, makes zero sense, and definitely sounds like voter intimidation. *** American people: if you feel you are being intimidated or pressured into not voting by ANYONE, including law enforcement, please report this to your poll watchers and the BOE!!”
Added another woman, “In my 78 years I have never ever seen the President of the US threaten voter intimidation like this.”
“This is blatant voter intimidation and it is against the law,” actress and activist Alyssa Milano tweeted in response to the president, linking to the ACLU’s description of voter intimidation.
The White House did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
According to the ACLU, voter intimidation can be categorized as aggressive questioning about qualifications, false information about voting requirements or even harassment. The organization notes that voter intimidation is both illegal and unlikely.
Anyone who faces issues at the polls, or has a ballot challenged, is encouraged to call the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE.
Illegal voting is actually not at all common in the United States. In fact, The Washington Post reports that Trump’s special commission to study voter fraud in the 2016 election was disbanded without finding any evidence, after some states refused to provide data.
A Washington Post report from December 2016 found only four cases of absentee or in-person voter fraud during the 2016 election through the news aggregation system Nexis.
And the Brennan Center for Justice’s annual report, The Truth About Voter Fraud, found that the majority of reported voter fraud incidents are due to other things, like clerical errors. According to a recap of the report, it “reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Given this tiny incident rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report noted, that an American ‘will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.’ “