Donald Trump’s claims that if he loses in November it will be due to a “rigged” election have sparked strong bipartisan criticism from election lawyers, donors and a former member of Congress who warn that the Republican candidate’s words are dangerous, fueling doubts about the election’s legitimacy and potentially leading to voter intimidation. As his poll numbers have weakened and his high-decibel spats with critics escalated, Trump has raised the specter of rigged elections and suggested that if he loses it might well be because of voter fraud. “The only way we can lose, in my opinion, I really mean this, Pennsylvania, is if cheating goes on,” Trump told a largely white rally last month in Altoona, Pennsylvania. “Go down to certain areas and watch and study [to] make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times. “We’re going to have unbelievable turnout, but we don’t want to see people voting five times,” Trump added, saying that he had “heard some stories about certain parts of the state and we have to be very careful”.
Several election lawyers and analysts are disturbed by Trump’s combustible use of language. “Trump’s rhetoric is troubling and casts a shadow over the legitimacy of the elections,” said Ken Gross, a well-known election lawyer in Washington who represents both Republican and Democratic clients. “Trump’s words may motivate people to go to polling places and potentially intimidate people not to vote.” The idea that “elections are rigged and there’s widespread fraud is not backed up by facts”, he said.
Others echo these concerns. “To argue that the process is rigged and prepare people for a supposedly illegitimate outcome is a very dangerous thing,” former Reublican representative Vin Weber told the Guardian. “What you want is to have a civil peaceful election [and] you don’t want to disrupt that.”
One prominent GOP election lawyer says that Trump’s fears are overblown, stressing that the “far right has been worked up about voter fraud for the last five to 10 years, but there’s little evidence that this type of activity is material. I don’t like it when people talk about issues that haven’t happened yet, or are phantom issues.”