Every day, a new tweet, a new speech, a new lie Trump-ets failure, rigged elections, voter fraud.
These are lies. We know they are lies. Every study, every bit of evidence, says voter fraud is vanishingly small. Small like 31 likely voter fraud cases out of more than 1 billion votes cast from 2000 to 2014. Politifact puts it in perspective: more people are struck by lightning than accused of voter fraud.
Rigged elections – also a lie. Try to sort through the miasma of innuendo and rhetoric and you come up with – nothing. Except, maybe, that Hillary is rigging the election by getting more people to vote for her, and the media is collaborating to rig the election – by reporting what Trump actually says, in all its appalling detail.
What would be needed to rig the election? We do not have a centralized, efficient electoral system. We have 50 states and thousands of counties and hundreds of thousands of townships and precincts and polling places — all of which would have to be individually attacked, because each one operates individually.
NPR (with a hat tip to Chris Ashby on Medium) sums up reasons that the election-rigging charges are bogus:
- The election is decentralized.
- State officials are on guard
- Clinton is already leading by a lot.
- Election fraud is rare (and it’s not quite “rigging” either)
- Elections are held in public places and staffed by private citizens.
- Party officials and lawyers are at the ready to challenge if needed.
- Voting machines have systems in place to prevent fraud.
- Representatives of candidates observe vote-counting.
- And so on.
Could our electoral system be better? Sure, it could. We need voting machines that always leave a paper trail, like the ones we use in St. Paul. We need more voting and more voter registration, not less. We need less gerrymandering when it comes to drawing Congressional and legislative districts – but we won’t get any re-do on those until after 2020’s census.
At the same time that their presidential candidate is blasting out nonsense about election rigging, the Republican party in various states is trying to keep people from voting. Threats to voters come from restrictive voter ID laws, from misapplication of the law (as in Wisconsin), and from Trump encouraging his supporters to intimidate voters on election day:
“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.
“I’ll look for . . . well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”
Trump’s lies about rigged elections are an attack on America. His lies pose a far bigger threat to our democracy than voter fraud ever has.
Undermining American confidence in the electoral system and convincing people that elections don’t count leads to awfulness like the Trump supporter quoted in the Boston Globe:
“If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take. . . . I would do whatever I can for my country.”
A coup. A revolution. Shooting the president-elect. This is NOT what democracy looks like.
More than 50 years ago, every election day turned the basement lunchroom in our two-room school into a polling place. I watched with envy as grown-ups pulled the curtains on the two voting booths to cast their ballots. I couldn’t wait for the day when I, too, would be able to participate in democracy by voting.
This year, I’ll go to the polls and I will vote. I will not give in to disgust with this year’s vicious, nasty campaign. Nor will I believe that my vote does not count. My vote counts — from the presidency on down to the Soil and Water District supervisor.
When I go to vote, I will see my neighbors there. We will all vote. This is our democracy, imperfect as it is. And we will keep it.