Slipping in polls, Trump’s complaints about voter fraud grow louder
No evidence of election rigging, but Republican urges supporters to monitor polling stations
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Grand Junction, Colorado, on Tuesday. President Barack Obama chided Trump for trying to discredit the elections before votes have even been cast. Photograph: George Frey/Getty Images
The more Donald Trump declines in the polls, the louder his complaints that the voting process is rigged and that the election will be “stolen” from him.
It was the US Republican presidential nominee’s response in August when he fell behind Hillary Clinton and it has happened again in the past week with his loss of ground to his Democratic rival.
“Remember, we are competing in a rigged election,” the New York businessman told supporters at a rally in Wisconsin on Monday night. “They even want to try and rig the election at the polling booths, where so many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is all too common.”
That same night, he claimed that “illegal immigrants are voting all over the country” and has urged his supporters to monitor polling stations for fraud on election day, raising concerns that they could intimate voters, particularly minorities, questioning their right to cast a ballot.
“Take a look at Philadelphia, what’s been going on, take a look at Chicago, take a look at St Louis,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Colorado on Tuesday. “Take a look at some of these cities, where you see things happening that are horrendous.”
The claims drew a reprimand from president Barack Obama on Tuesday. Trump’s warnings of a “rigged election” were “unprecedented” in modern American political history, he said.
“I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place,” the president added.
He chided Trump for his complaints, saying that it did not show the kind of leadership and toughness needed in a president. “You start whining before the game’s even over?” he said, going on to note that studies by both conservatives and liberals had rubbished claims of widespread fraud.
“I’d advise Mr Trump to stop whining and try to make his case to get votes,” said Obama.
The US president is correct – the evidence does not back up Trump’s claims. News 21, a national investigative reporting project at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, examined voting and found 150 alleged cases of double voting, 56 cases of non-citizens voting and only 10 cases of in-person voter fraud between 2000 and 2012.
Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and an election administration expert, found just 31 allegations, though not prosecutions, relating to voter impersonation out of one billion votes in elections between 2000 and 2014.
InvestigationLorraine MinniteThe Myth of Voter Fraud
“It is extremely rare. We can only point to a handful of cases over the last 15 years,” she said.
“Voters can only really falsify their own identity in the process. It is hard for voters to stuff ballots because they don’t count the ballots.”
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, diverged from her boss on the issue on Wednesday, telling MSNBC that she did not believe there was widespread voter fraud. “No, I do not believe that,” she said. “So absent overwhelming evidence that there is, it would not be for me to say that there is.”
One explanation behind Trump’s increasingly noisy drum-beat of complaints about a cheated system is that it is a pre-emptive move to save face in the event of a humiliating defeat to Clinton, as the polls are signposting.
“He may be trying to just set the stage for his defeat. He may realise that he is most likely going to lose and he is delegitimating the election of Hillary Clinton,” said Minnite.
“It will also mobilise some part of his base – they will get all excited about it because he certainly has been calling for people to watch the polls, to make sure no cheating happens.”