Over the past few days, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that if he does not win the presidency this November, it will be because the election was “rigged” or “fixed.” (Presumably, this means that if he wins, we will know the election was clean.)
Trump went further with regard to our own commonwealth. He told supporters at an Erie rally that he’s sure Pennsylvania’s election will be rigged, and that people from “certain parts of the state” will each vote “five or ten times.” He is now recruiting volunteers to “patrol” polling places to ensure that no voter fraud occurs.
All of this is extremely troubling. Given the history of violence at Trump rallies and the racially charged nature of his campaign, Trump supporters showing up at inner-city polls (the “certain parts of the state” Trump was clearly talking about) demanding proof that voters about to cast their ballots haven’t already voted earlier in the day risks confrontation, intimidation, and voter suppression.
Further, delegitimizing the results of an election before it even occurs is profoundly damaging to our democracy.
Al Gore and Richard Nixon lost close presidential elections in 2000 and 1960, respectively; the integrity of those elections merited reasonable examination far more then anything that has happened in 2016. And remember, Gore and Nixon graciously conceded those elections, recognizing the need to put the people’s faith in the democratic process - not to mention the stability of the republic - above their own self-interest.
What makes Trump’s assertions so reckless is the fact that there is virtually no chance that they could actually be true.
Let’s assume that someone would want to fraudulently vote for Hillary Clinton. First, that person would have to choose someone to impersonate - a victim. That person would have to select someone of similar age, since poll workers can see the age of voters on their rolls (if the would-be impersonator is 30 years old, he wouldn’t be able to successfully pretend to be a 60-year-old man). Furthermore, that person would have to know his victim’s specific polling place and be sure to cast the fraudulent vote before his victim has voted, lest he be caught attempting his fraud by poll workers.
Finally, that person would also have to be sure, somehow, that the half-dozen people working at the poll aren’t familiar with his victim’s appearance, lest they realize the attempted impersonation. He would also have to know what his victim’s signature looks like, so that he can plausibly fake it when he signs the voter book.
If this perpetrator is wrong about any of this, he faces arrest, prosecution, fines, and prison time. In exchange for that risk, he would potentially gain one lousy vote in an election of millions. That’s assuming his victim does not try to vote later in the day, which would reveal the presence of fraud, negating the fraudulent vote.
Nobody is willing to risk so much for so little, which is why the architects of our commonwealth’s unconstitutional voter-ID law were unable to cite even one example of voter impersonation when a judge asked them to do so. It never happens.
Simply put, Trump’s claims are preposterous. They are not designed to prevent voter fraud or to keep any aspect of our election protocols honest. Instead, they are designed to justify voter suppression and lay the groundwork for an excuse that Trump will use if he loses the general election.
Trump has cravenly decided to put his own self-interest ahead of the integrity of our electoral process and the legitimacy of our elected officials.
This behavior is truly beyond the pale. All political leaders of both parties must unambiguously condemn this toxic and pernicious form of politics.