Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE and his supporters in Congress have made some dubious claims this election season. But perhaps the most desperate and dangerous of all is their repeated assertion that somehow this election might be ‘rigged.’ They are sending a clear message to their supporters: that if Donald Trump loses in November, the result will be illegitimate. This goes beyond the dog-whistle campaigning we’ve seen so far and ventures into open allegations that are as ridiculous as they are perilous to our democracy, and in last night's debate Donald Trump doubled down by refusing to say that he would accept the outcome of this election.
One of the most persistent myths in this country is that somehow it’s easy to rig an election or cast an illegal ballot. In fact, voter fraud is virtually non-existent in America. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, of the 197 million votes cast in this country between 2002 and 2005, only twenty-six people were convicted of voter fraud – a rate of 0.00000031%, or about the same chance as winning the Powerball jackpot.
Moreover, the fact that elections are run at the state and local level – not at the federal level - would thwart a coordinated attempt to manipulate results of elections. The Texas Secretary of State, Carlos Cascos – a Republican – recently pointed out: “Texas has 254 counties using a variety of voting methods. The decentralized system in addition to layers of checks would make changing the outcome of a statewide election essentially impossible.”
Other Republican secretaries of state and election officials agree that these claims are completely unfounded. The Tennessee Secretary of State, Tre Hargett – also a Republican – said this week: “Here in Tennessee … elections have been run in a very fair, honest and transparent fashion and in a very bipartisan way.”
The facts show that it is very difficult to commit voter fraud and rig an election in this country, unlike in places like Russia, where despotic leaders use intimidation and byzantine eligibility rules to ensure a favorable outcome every time. It should surprise no one, then, that Vladimir Putin’s most devoted American admirer should think that’s how elections are supposed to work.
When Donald Trump talks of rigged votes and jailing his political opponents – when he says that he alone can solve America’s problems in the manner of a strongman – it speaks to his fundamental lack of understanding about real democracy.
After the disputed 2000 presidential election in Florida, I wrote and helped pass the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to enhance the security and accuracy of our voting systems. Congress and President George W. Bush worked to strengthen our election system by modernizing and strengthening the security of voting systems in states, increasing accountability, and improving accessibility for voters. We appropriated money for the states to update and modernize their voting systems and make them more reliable and accountable. With passage of that groundbreaking legislation, the American people witnessed a bipartisan effort to ensure every American’s voice is heard. That’s what democracy is about - not this shameful attempt to instill fear and undermine the confidence of American voters.
Donald Trump says the system is stacked against him, but it is only Trump standing in his own way. From his hateful rhetoric about immigrants to equating sexual assault to locker-room banter, Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress have crossed one line after another. Now, as they begin to recognize the inevitable rejection by voters of their extreme and dangerous agenda, they’re teetering on the edge of a shameful accusation that by itself could undermine our democracy for a generation. His reckless and irresponsible remarks about our nation's election system insult true American heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis who risked their lives to secure and protect the right of all Americans to vote.
Despite these claims, I continue to have faith that the American people will make the right decision and reject Trump on Election Day. I am confident the majority of voters will reject his divisive rhetoric, hateful agenda, and shameful lies and support Secretary Clinton on Nov. 8.
House Minority Whip Hoyer represents Maryland's 5th District and was a co-sponsor of the Help America Vote Act.
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