With Donald Trump sliding in the polls, the Republican candidate's new campaign strategy appears to involve questioning the legitimacy of election results. Three weeks away from Election Day, Trump has repeatedly suggested that the presidential election is "rigged," rife with voter fraud and intentionally compromised by the "mainstream media." Trump has made these claims in speeches, television interviews, Facebook posts and several tweets.
The claims of a rigged election come after Trump's stock took a massive dive in national polling over the last few weeks. That slip seems to be the result of the first two televised debates and The Washington Post bombshell recording that showed Trump discussing women and sexual assault.
Several political commentators have pointed out the danger of Trump's claim: if he successfully convinces a large portion of the electorate that the election is "rigged," it raises the possibility that his most ardent supporters might violently resist the election results. This, of course, would be the first time there was not a peaceful transition of power in the United States.
He has also encouraged supporters to go to polls and "watch" voters, keeping an eye out for election fraud, and some of those supporters have already admitted they will be focused on minorities.
A recent Fox News poll seems to show that Trump's strategy is working: 41 percent of voters now think the election may be "stolen" from Trump.
Despite Trump's claims, though, there is little evidence voter fraud is an issue. In fact, every American should feel completely confident that the election results fully represent Americans' choices.
1. Romney didn't lose Philadelphia to voter fraud. Romney lost Philadelphia.
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Firstly, some of the most popular allegations of voter fraud have been investigated and debunked. Trump and Fox News host Sean Hannity have both referenced alleged voter fraud in Philadelphia from the 2012 election. Mitt Romney didn't earn a single vote in the city of Philadelphia's voting 59 divisions. This, to Trump and Hannity, seemed to prove voter fraud.
In response to this claim, which Hannity and Trump made on national television, Philadelphia election official Ryan Godfrey went to the trouble of delineating Twitter just how absurd and unlikely voter fraud is, especially in the case of Philadelphia. Perhaps the most important note was that after the election, The Philadelphia Inquirer couldn't find a single person in the 59 divisions who cast a vote for Romney. It seems like the most likely scenario is that Romney just didn't stand a chance against Obama in the city.
2. There are some incredible people tasked with ensuring voter fraud doesn't occur, and it's a bipartisan effort.
Republican election lawyer Chris Ashby also stepped into the spotlight to directly refute Trump's claim. Ashby's point, which he made in a recent piece titled "The Election Is Not Rigged," goes something like this: Democrat and Republican citizens run polling places. They are all trained to prevent voter fraud. Because they are human, mistakes happen, but that's why there are several levels of safeguards to correct errors, check for cheating and ensure a legitimate election.
Godfrey and Ashby's argument aside, there have also been a plethora of voter fraud studies. One such study, perhaps the most well-known of the group, was conducted by a professor from Loyola Law School who studied voting history and found only 31 instances of fraud in more than one billion votes.
This evidence, paired with the fact that effective voting fraud would require you to perfectly select the counties and districts to commit fraud in order to swing an election, should calm anyone's fears of a United States election being "rigged."
3. Which isn't to say that our voting processes are unaffected by politics.
The closest thing we do have to election fraud is arguably district gerrymandering, the practice of re-drawing voting district boundaries to help improve certain political parties' chances of winning. Gerrymandering has been suggested as a partial culprit in Republicans' recent slate of Congressional election successes. So on top of this election not being rigged for Hillary Clinton and voter fraud being a nonissue, the closest thing we have to election rigging actually benefits Republicans, the party Trump is representing.
4. The threat just isn't voter fraud. It's anti-fraud efforts that make it more difficult for citizens to vote.
As The Washington Post's Phillip Bump pointed out, the state of Pennsylvania — under a Republican governor's administration — was forced to admit in a court filing that there "have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states."
That filing came as the state tried to push another sort of legitimate election rigging: voter ID laws. While admitting that election fraud was a non-issue — essentially saying their purpose for pushing voter ID laws was baseless — that Republican administration advocated that every voter have an unexpired government ID issued by the state of Pennsylvania. If you didn't have an ID, you could get a free one with a Social Security card, birth certificate and two documents proving your residency in Pennsylvania.
These requirements would prevent 9.2 percent of the state's 8.1 million eligible voters from casting a ballot, many of them minorities and college students who tend to vote for Democrats in the state of Pennsylvania.
So let's focus, Donald. Let's encourage people to have faith in their fellow citizens and their ballots. And let's work to uphold and honor this democracy — not question its legitimacy.
Cover photo via Shutterstock.