If there’s one thing that’s worse than the sheer volume of shit-slinging going on between Democrats and Republicans in America right now, it’s the increasingly popular notion amongst voters that they’re in for a rigged election.
A disturbing 41% of voters surveyed in a Politico/Morning Consult poll last month agreed with Donald Trump that the election could be “stolen” from him due to “widespread voter fraud,” a figure that I’m sure pleases him greatly.
It’s clear from the overwhelming response from his supporters that the majority of them are absolutely buying this (almost 3/4 of Republicans surveyed, according to the poll), while even 17% of Democrats are in agreement.
All told, the majority of Americans surveyed (around 60%) believe it’s “necessary” to raise questions about election results, due to foreign government intervention or fraudulent voting.
Although this lack of trust in electoral proceedings is a clear signifier of a larger mistrust of government amongst voters, it is perhaps better to ask what will happen if this election is a close one, rather than a rigged one.
It’s not that foreign election tampering and voter fraud aren’t serious issues- in particular as it’s quite clear now that Russia has been engaging in some serious horseshit with regards to authorizing hacks aimed at U.S. political organizations. But a “rigged” election is something different altogether.
Although ballot fraud is undeniably a part of U.S. history, the last meaningful case of election rigging was reportedly during the 1948 campaign by Lyndon Johnson to the United States Senate.
Yes, technically elections would be easier to rig at the local level, but we’re talking about a presidential campaign here. No presidential election in American history can be shown to be rigged- meanwhile the difficulty of pulling off such a task has only grown in difficulty. The fact is that voting in the United States is a decentralized process, and it would take massive coordination across a great many states to pull off such a grand conspiracy.
Here’s the problem though- facts like this mean nothing if they hold no weight with the American electorate.
Although many prominent political figures across party lines have stated openly that the idea of a massive voter fraud conspiracy is pure fantasy, it has done little to quell the fears in voter’s minds that something is bound to go awry on election day.
It is precisely that fear which will cause the most amount of panic should this be a close race.
Think about the events of the 2000 election between Gore and Bush, and imagine an election outcome that close. Oh, and by the way… don’t forget about the current 4-4 deadlock that we all know to expect in the Supreme Court
The issue is that even though there was no evidence of voter tampering in the 2000 election, public suspicion, and widespread institutional distrust has had 16 years to thoroughly permeate the American psyche, to the point that even the very existence of electronic voting machines might provide the requisite grounds for a contested election.
This is a fire that Donald Trump has actively been pouring accelerant on, and even if he loses by a wide margin he has still set a precedent for massive pushback. I can only imagine what a close call in a battleground state might look like.