“The election is going to be rigged—I’m going to be honest,” Donald Trump said to a rowdy crowd in August, at a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “People are going to walk in and they’re going to vote ten times, maybe,” Trump told an interviewer later. A few days afterward, in Pennsylvania, where Trump was then lagging by nine points in the polls, he warned supporters that “the only way we can lose . . . is if cheating goes on.” That week, a new page appeared on his campaign Web site, inviting concerned citizens to volunteer to be “Trump Election Observers” so that they could “help me stop Crooked Hillary from rigging this election!” At the first Presidential debate, Trump and Hillary Clinton were asked whether they would accept the ultimate outcome of the election. Trump evaded the question at first, before winkingly conceding that he would. But after the debate he went right back to his routine—more talk of rigging. Those polls that said Clinton had won the debate? They were skewed against him, he said, just like Google was, with its suspiciously pro-Clinton search results. At campaign stops this week, Trump reiterated his claims that Clinton was out to steal the vote. He even told the Times that he was reconsidering whether he’d accept a Clinton victory at all.
As my colleague Amy Davidson has discussed, Republicans have spent years, beginning well before Trump’s campaign, warning voters that devious people were trying to cast illegitimate ballots to swing elections. They gave the problem a tidy, intuitive-sounding name: voter fraud. But, in an especially toxic political gambit, Trump has taken this concept to the extreme: trying to delegitimize a national election even while campaigning for the Presidency.
By now, it seems almost quaint to point out that voter fraud in the United States is vanishingly rare. Yet the facts are clear. When Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, tracked cases of alleged voter impersonation—that is, someone pretending to be someone else at the polls—between 2000 and August of 2014, he found just thirty-one incidents, out of more than a billion ballots cast in general, primary, special, and municipal elections during that period. Another investigation, by a national reporting project based at Arizona State University called News21, found two thousand and sixty-eight alleged election-fraud cases between 2000 and the summer of 2012. Ten of them were voter-impersonation cases; the others were related to absentee ballots and voter registration. (The over-all numbers amounted to roughly one malign impersonator out of every fifteen million potential voters.) In-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in part because it’s a laughably inefficient way to affect the outcome of an election. The penalties are steep—hefty fines, even jail time—while the actual gains, in terms of extra votes, are minimal.
Not that these findings will sway Trump—in fact, his arguments about election fraud also long predate his current campaign. On Election Night in 2012, he tweeted, “This election is a total sham and travesty. We are not a democracy.” Two years later, he was at it again, this time with a nativist twist. “Crazy – Election officials saying that there is nothing stopping illegal immigrants from voting,” he tweeted the Friday before the midterms. “This is very bad (unfair) for Republicans!”
Full Article: Trump and the Truth: The “Rigged” Election – The New Yorker.