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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Voter fraud for dummies

by digby

Josh Marshall (correctly, in my opinion) surmises that Trump the narcissistic con man is setting the table for a claim that the election was stolen from him:
It may not seem terribly important right now with all the stories roiling the campaign. But I think there's a good chance it's the most important. Over the last 48 hours Trump's allies, surrogates and now Trump himself have forcibly injected the topic of voter fraud or 'election rigging' into the election. Longtime TPM Readers know this topic has probably been the publication's single greatest and most consistent focus over fifteen years. The subject has been investigated countless times. And it is clear that voter fraud and especially voter impersonation fraud is extremely rare - rare almost to the point of non-existence, though there have been a handful of isolated cases.

Vote fraud is clearly the aim in what is coming from Trump allies. But Trump's own comment - "I'm afraid the election's gonna be rigged, I have to be honest" - seems to suggest some broader effort to manufacture votes or falsify numbers, to allude to some broader conspiracy. Regardless, Trump is now pressing this issue to lay the groundwork to discredit and quite possibly resist the outcome of the November election.

Some might suggest that Trump's prediction of a 'rigged' election is simply an extension of his complaints and vocabulary during the primary process. They're wrong. Primaries have convoluted and complex rules. They're not one person one vote elections. National elections have a clear cut set of rules. The only way to rig them is to change the vote numbers.

It's true that Republicans have been very disingenuously pushing the 'voter fraud' con for years, especially as the power of minority voting has grown over the last two decades. However, as bad as that has been, there's a major difference. Republicans to date have almost always used bogus claims of 'voter fraud' to rev up their troops and build support for restrictive voting laws, largely focused on minority voters. A number of those laws have been overturned by federal courts in the last week. A notable case was North Carolina where the Court found that the changes were intentionally designed to limit voting by black North Carolinians.

What Republicans politicians have virtually never done was use this canard to lay the groundwork for rejecting the result of a national election. This is Donald Trump, not a normal politician. You should not be surprised if he refuses to accept the result of an electoral defeat or calls on his supporters to resist it.

I have often wondered if this might happen. With concerns about rigged vote machines from the left and voter fraud from the right, we have lost trust in the electoral system. But the big problem is that we seem to be in a period of inane conspiracy theorizing and paranoia in the system at large, with anyone who disagrees being assumed to be corrupt or dishonest and the assumption being that the entire system is "rigged." It's not a partisan problem. It's a logic problem and it's getting worse with social media.

As Marshall points out in his piece, this could lead to something very dangerous in terms of Trump since many of his followers are already gun-toting extremists with a very thin grasp of democratic norms. It could be ugly.