The story has been used by political candidates, anti-immigration activists and election “watchdog” activists recruiting volunteers and seeking restrictions on voting. For national audiences, it has been invoked by right-wing provocateurs and broadcast by Russian trolls seeking to influence U.S. elections. President Trump falsely claimed that millions of immigrants living in the country illegally voted in 2016 and, separately, that hundreds of buses carried voters across state lines to cast ballots in the New Hampshire election.
In that same election year, the fable of the traveling voters appeared in Arizona, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. One account described voters only as Black and said they were driven into Alabama to cast ballots in a special election.
The vast majority of the stories targeted Latinos, and often in derogatory terms. In those ways, they are not unlike other bald fictions used in U.S. history to justify voting restrictions against immigrating Catholics, Irish and Chinese people, freed Black Americans and others. In the 1800s, for instance, arrivals from Ireland were accused of registering to vote as they stepped off the boat.