It’s not just the Democrats who are frustrated by Donald Trump’s “rigged election” talk. Republicans have started warning their increasingly ostracized nominee to stop stoking his supporters with claims that the 2016 election will be stolen, daring him to show proof or put a lid on it. “Somebody claiming in the election, ‘I was defrauded,’ that isn’t going to cut it,” said former Sen. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican who earlier in the campaign endorsed Jeb Bush and then Marco Rubio. “They’re going to have to say how, where, why, when. I don’t think leading candidates for the presidency should undercut the process unless you have a really good reason,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who gained little support for his own 2016 White House run, told POLITICO. Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, have been flogging for months the notion that Hillary Clinton supporters could tamper with voting to the point that they win the White House. Their campaign website is recruiting poll watchers, and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has been raising unlimited funds from corporations and individuals in a bid to “fight a rigged system” that purportedly benefits the Democrats.
And Monday, at a post-debate rally in crucial Pennsylvania, Trump kept the vote rigging argument alive: “Watch other communities because we don’t want this election stolen from us,” Trump said. “We do not want this election stolen from us.”
Such sustained and supercharged rhetoric, coming on the heels of a heated debate over restrictive voter ID laws across the country and the U.S. government’s Friday announcement accusing Russian hackers, on orders from the Kremlin, of trying to meddle with the election, has raised alarm bells in election offices nationwide.
States already bracing for record turnout in the presidential race are also dealing simultaneously with an unprecedented series of cyberthreats, including what the Homeland Security Department has confirmed as attempted hacks on more than 20 voting registration systems across the country. While the balloting itself is largely seen as safe from cybersleuths because the bulk of the actual voting process takes place offline, the state officials doing the grunt work complain that charges of election rigging, on top of the complaints they hear about ballot security, make their jobs that much tougher.