Donald Trump, slipping in the polls, has taken to warning that the election is being “rigged.” In an interview with The Washington Post published Tuesday, Trump suggested that recent court rulings against strict voting laws in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Texas and elsewhere could let people vote over and over. “There’s a lot of dirty pool played at the election, meaning the election is rigged,” Trump said. “I would not be surprised. The voter ID, they’re fighting as hard as you can fight so that that they don’t have to show voter ID. So, what’s the purpose of that? How many times is a person going to vote during the day?” Asked whether he thinks people can vote multiple times, Trump continued: “Multiple times. How about like 10 times. Why not? If you don’t have voter ID, you can just keep voting and voting and voting.” Trump made the same case on Fox News Tuesday, warning: “People are going to walk in and vote 10 times maybe. Who knows? They are going to vote 10 times.” Let’s first quickly dispense with the substance of Trump’s claim. For one thing, the statistically tiny amount of double voting that has been detected in elections is almost always the result of people being registered in more than one state. That’s something a voter ID requirement would do nothing to prevent.
More importantly, studies by the Brennan Center for Justice, a widely respected public policy organization, have shown that in-person voter impersonation fraud — the only kind of voter fraud that could conceivably be stopped by voter ID — is less common than being struck by lightning. Plenty of other studies have come to similar conclusions. As an empirical matter, it is simply not in dispute that Trump’s comments are factually false.
But there’s something else that’s important to note. Trump’s comments are understandably being seen in the context of his broader case throughout the campaign that a corrupt political system is being rigged by elites. They play to his supporters’ unique sense of disillusionment and alienation. In fact, though, hyperbolic and unsubstantiated warnings from high-ranking conservatives that the other side is cheating via voter impersonation fraud, double voting, non-citizen voting, felon voting, or similar schemes have been a regular feature of presidential races going back decades.