Apr 12, 2024

Elon Musk is wrong about illegal voting.

A screenshot of a post Elon Musk shared on X
A screenshot of a post Elon Musk shared on X

His claims are going mainstream. But they shouldn't.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day.

Today's edition is a personal opinion piece and Friday edition.

Elon Musk is one of the richest, most famous, and most influential people on the planet. I don't love writing about people everyone else writes about endlessly (and sometimes gratuitously), but what Musk says is important — and it's especially important to decipher whether what he's saying is true.

For the last few months, Musk has been promoting an idea on his platform X that is increasingly popular among Americans, especially those on the right: That the Biden administration is "importing" illegal immigrants to juice voter turnout for Democrats.

Musk has done this on several occasions in several different ways. Much of his promoting has been rhetorical, but perhaps the most notable attempt at providing proof for the idea came when he shared a post from the account @EndWokeness two weeks ago. The tweet claimed to have found data showing hundreds of thousands of unauthorized migrants had registered to vote this year, which Musk reposted with a signature short tweet calling it "extremely concerning."

These claims caught my eye for a few reasons. First, because they are starting to be mainstreamed. On Friday, former President Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) are scheduled to announce a bill that makes it illegal for non-citizens to vote in federal elections, despite the fact it has long been illegal for non-citizens to vote in federal elections. Second, because the post is very Muskian: Elevating a piece of content that is a bit controversial with a brief comment like “concerning” or “terrifying” or “important.” It’s not quite an endorsement, but it ensures that millions of people will see it. In fact, Musk recently replied to my commentary about Israel by just saying “good piece,” which helped the post get 20 million impressions; so I know what it's like to get the Musk bump. But mostly, the claims caught my eye because I've done a lot of reporting on immigration and claims of voter fraud

I have made my positions on the border as clear as I possibly can: The border is in crisis and our immigration system is broken. President Biden and Congress are failing. I have laid out my solutions for the crisis in depth here and wrote about why I supported the bipartisan bill floated earlier this year that Senate Republicans ultimately tanked. Whether millions of unauthorized migrants are crossing over the border each year or thousands are being flown to cities across the U.S. every month is not a matter of opinion — it's happening.

What is up for debate is whether this is an intentional policy prescription by Democrats that is intended to help them electorally. And on that question, I think the evidence is overwhelming that Elon Musk is wrong.

Here is one of several posts Musk has shared about the issue: