It is easy — but dangerous — to dismiss President Trump's false claims about voter fraud as merely the latest irritation of his notoriously thin skin.

Trump has repeatedly claimed, while offering no evidence, that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes because three million to five million illegal immigrants voted for her.

With this claim, Trump stokes his base, which bought into his campaign rhetoric about voter fraud, and he assails members of the media who point out that he can't prove it.
But now he sits atop the Republican Party, which has been pushing efforts to restrict voter access. That is why this matters.

This all rings so familiar in Pennsylvania, where Republicans in control of the state legislature pressed in 2011 and 2012 for a voter ID law to solve a problem that didn't exist.
Trump's bogus claim will fit hand in glove with any new Republican effort to further restrict voting.

Trump, during the campaign, routinely predicted that people might "vote 10 times" in states with no voter ID laws and states, such as Pennsylvania, where those laws were overturned in legal challenges.

But after his victory, Trump's lawyers fought federal lawsuits from Green Party nominee Jill Stein by claiming in legal filings in Pennsylvania and Michigan that "all available evidence" shows the election "was not tainted by fraud or mistake."

That wasn't the first time lawyers had to contradict the politicians who employ them when it comes to voter fraud.

Pennsylvania's voter ID act was passed in 2012 by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. If voter fraud is such a threat here, how exactly did they get elected?

Lawyers sent by Corbett to court to defend the law quickly conceded that they could offer no proof of widespread voter fraud.

A judge declared the law unconstitutional in 2014, ruling that the state had offered only "a vague concern about voter fraud."

Trump last Wednesday tweeted that he is calling "for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD."

I guess capital letters are required when you first reach a conclusion and then call for an investigation to confirm it. (I'm an italics man, myself.)

Trump is apparently basing his claim on a couple of academic papers.

One problem there: The authors say their papers don't support his claim.

Trump, in his tweet, also vowed to investigate people registered to vote in more than one state.
Hilarity ensued.

Several reporters soon determined that Trump's daughter, son-in-law, chief White House strategist, press secretary, and the guy he appointed Treasury secretary are registered to vote in two states.

Trump, in a speech to Republican legislators in Philadelphia on Thursday, compared "illegal voting" to "radical Islamic terrorism."

Give the man his due. He can read a crowd.

One thing became clear in Pennsylvania's voter ID fight: It was far easier to find cases of legitimate voters prevented from casting ballots under the law than it was to find proof of voter fraud.

Since 2011, I've heard plenty of arguments in favor of voter ID laws that seemed to make sense.

The most common: You need to show identification to get on an airplane and into the federal courthouse in Philadelphia. Why not require identification to cast a ballot?

What I've never heard is a good answer to the most important question in this debate. If voter ID laws prevent legitimate voters from casting ballots, how many people would you wrongly deprive of that right to prevent a problem you can't prove exists?