It’s been an entertaining and downright depressing two years of campaigning, but we’re almost finished. I couldn’t be more thankful, because any more of this bullshit and I may voluntarily start listening to a Justin Bieber album and let my ears bleed. The media circus has been over analyzing and dissecting Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on a loop, and we’re finally down to the last few hours. Even with all the scandals we’ve already witnessed, one final obstacle may still take the Emmy in this soap opera: voter intimidation.
Donald Trump’s favourite refrain over the last few months has been how the election is “rigged” against him. He’s continuously cited conspiracies and a supposed academic study (read: highly contested and disproven by several scholars) that claims voter fraud is rampant in the United States. He seems to think repeating something enough times will make it truth. Of course, that may not matter, since if he says it enough then his parrots will start repeating it without any critical thought or fear of sharing misinformation. Bringing up facts with sources disproving this statement will only ruffle the feathers of his flock, but let’s give it a try.
Voter fraud accusations and irregularities almost always turn out to be simple and unintentional mistakes made by election officials or voters. Even then, fraud instances in elections are so rare they make Powerball tickets look like a sound investment strategy. Of the 1 billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014, there were 31 incidents of voter fraud. That’s right: 31.
Additionally, the US has 3,144 counties, each with its own idiosyncrasies. Although interconnectedness and seamless technology is normally the goal with complicated and important processes like this, the presidential electoral system is actually difficult to rig because of its old-fashioned techniques and staff usage. There are just too many people present at polling stations and different registration processes to try and get away with something as unsubtle as wide-scale voter fraud.
“The lack of a network is what makes it nearly impossible to ‘rig’ an election on the scale that is being suggested by the Trump Campaign,” says Paul Gronke, director of the Early Voting Information Centre at Reed College.
Wired’s Marcus Wohlsen even concocted a step-by-step guide on how to rig this election as well. Hint: it involves bribing a shit ton of people and hacking antiquated technology that’s hard to maneuver. Ultimately, it’s much simpler to affect the election results by actually voting legally than spending the time and effort it would take to change the results illegally.
Why then, are Trump and his supporters so adamant that the Democrats are using voter fraud to rig this election?
This isn’t a rhetorical question. I am legitimately trying to understand how, with so much information readily available, that Trump is still calling for his own supporters to watch the polls. As if inciting violence and bigoted behavior at his rallies isn’t enough, Trump has essentially called for his supporters to show their force at voting stations to intimidate Clinton supporters.
Trump has singled out Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis as places for widespread voter fraud. As locations that are traditionally heavy in minority populations one must consider a different implication in Trump’s motivations on drawing focus to these areas. What’s terrifying is that it isn’t a far stretch to imagine his supporters emulating his behavior during the second debate to ensure the “right” type of people vote. Trump was likened to a “silverback gorilla” by Nigel Farage, the outgoing head of the U.K. Independence Party, after prowling behind Clinton like he would physically attack her at any minute. With so much animosity between the Republicans and Democrats, the precedent he set could very well be the attitude his supporters adopt for this call-to-arms.
After his announcement in Pennsylvania on Nov 8 for his fans to become poll monitors however, there has been no increase in registered volunteers for the election. This has civil rights groups expressing fear of his supporters becoming roaming, vigilante-style groups around stations to confront those they deem unsuitable to vote. At this time however, there are no formal reports of these groups making concrete plans to organize and execute such plans. They might have been discouraged by the various legal attempts to proactively shut down voter intimidation. Regretfully though, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio overturned higher penalties for those caught harassing voters, as “there had been no reported instances of voter harassment in the state so far.” We still have a few hours to go though. Trump fans are renowned for their passion; just witnessing them at his rallies the last few months has been horrifying. The cult of Trump is most certainly capable of continuing a scare tactic methodology to fight off rigged election results. Despite being confronted with how virtually non-existent the issue of voter fraud is, they still vehemently defend Trump’s false statements. It’s shocking; but then again, maybe it isn’t.
Given the current popularity of vigilante superhero movies and television shows, perhaps the South Park meme isn’t that far off base. This election has turned into a media circus, depicting details around both candidates’ lives instead of fully discussing what their platforms and policies are. It could very well be an episode of a teen drama, complete with a plot twist from the FBI reopening a case - then promptly closing it again - against Clinton during the key period of early voting. And with a record turnout for early voting this year, this disconcerting action may later be viewed as one of the main contributing factors any final results. If this campaign really was a show though, the next step from the villain would most certainly be using fear and intimidation to get what he wanted.
The rest of the world has jokingly been using this election as an IQ test; and the US, it seems, may be failing. 2016 will be an election for the history books no matter the outcome, but don’t let a silverback gorilla and his goons keep you from making the right choice. Some may view the media coverage thus far as irrelevant mud-slinging without policy discussion, but I think there’s an argument to be made that the main issues are still being talked about. Who we are and what perspectives we allow to prevail and be accepted in society fundamentally affect the policies that we create.
This is not a country that will allow racism, sexism, and bigotry to run rampant. We are a people who will hold others accountable for their words, instead of blindly accepting and supporting whatever nonsense spews forth from a pseudo-celebrity who claims that not paying taxes is smart, that climate change is a myth concocted by the Chinese, and does not understand the first thing about respecting others or allowing for women to have autonomy over their own bodies. His level of ignorance is appalling. Instead, we need to elect someone who will find the balance between the justice of the left and the freedom of the right. A candidate who threatens to jail his opponents is not a good place to start.
Go out and vote. Let the world know that the next season of America is not a joke. More importantly, let them know that America will not cower in fear of a few ignorant villains--the good guys always win.