Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has spent the last several months asserting that the Nov. 8 election will be rigged against him.
He doesn’t have any evidence to support this claim — except for all the polls that say the real estate developer and reality TV star is going to lose the election — but that hasn’t stopped him from tarnishing the foundation of U.S. democracy. He’s gone so far as to refuse to acknowledge whether he will accept the results of the election.
Thing is, if Trump dropped the paranoia and just wanted to talk about how American elections are stacked, I’d have to agree with him. U.S. elections are rigged to favor people who have the most money and power. There’s a pile of evidence that suggest the candidate who spends most in an election wins; Citizens United gave money more political freedom of speech than people; voter ID laws attempt to limit voting for the people least likely to have a state-issued card: people of color, the elderly and the poor; through gerrymandering politicians carve states into Congressional districts so that lawmakers can pick who will be voting for them; and because Election Day isn’t a national holiday, it is more difficult for families and the working class to make it to the polls.
The election isn’t rigged against Trump, it’s rigged against the working class.
Trump won’t talk about America’s real voting problems because it doesn’t serve his myth of invincibility. In the man’s mind, no one has more respect for women than him, the Trump brand is valuable, and it would take an entire government working in tandem with a cowed media and Mexico — it’s always Mexico — to take him down.
Trump’s fears for election rigging include dead people voting for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; people voting at multiple polling places for Clinton; and that his supporters will be discouraged from casting ballots. He’s asked the most fervent among his fans to stake out polling places, watching over them to ensure there’s no funny business.
The type of fraud Trump worries about doesn’t really exist. People are more likely to get struck by lightning than attempt voter fraud, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law has found. The Washington Post recently published a study that found 31 incidents of voter fraud in the past 14 years. Rutgers University specifically delved into the issue of “dead people” voting and found that, yes, thousands of “dead” people voted in the 2002 election. Upon further research, though, these seemingly impossible votes were due to clerical errors and people voting early and then dying before the election. Similarly, the Pew Center research Trump has cited, saying there are 24 million voter registrations that are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The same data source Trump is talking about later goes on to describe how these misregistrations are mostly due to people making life changes — like moving, getting married, or dying.
If people are still worried about election tampering, I’d like to note that municipal election officers do an excellent job of keeping the vote honest. As a journalist I’ve covered a lot of elections and done plenty of exit polling. Election officers take their jobs seriously, people. I’ve seen election officers, usually retired people from the community, pull out measuring tape to make sure no one is campaigning within 200 feet of polling places and I’ve seen them turn people away who are not properly registered. The officers are there to ensure a smooth election, they didn’t just register, take an oath, and then work all day in a polling place for the $45-$80 stipend.
One thing election officers can’t keep an eye on, however, are electronic voting machines. The machines are preprogrammed and whatever vote gets entered in cannot be taken back or manipulated by people at the polling place. There are questions about how easily the machines can be hacked and tallies adjusted. This is what people can watch out for: the exit polls should match pretty closely to the actual vote tally.
Trump’s dump on the election’s legitimacy before it even gets started — and with nothing more than a gut feeling — is a dirty secessionist tactic. This is a man who would rather burn down the White House than see someone else governing from it — and he’s been gassing the public for months.
Kristin Palpini can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.