Donald Trump is again riling up his voting base with claims that the November election will be rigged against him.
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”
It’s a charge that even other Republicans have been quick to refute. Critics have called such talk potentially dangerous and detrimental to trust in the US democratic process.
“States, backed by tens of thousands of GOP and DEM volunteers, ensure integrity of electoral process,” Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is often sharply critical of Trump, tweeted Sunday. “Elections are not rigged.”
Jon Husted, the secretary of state of Ohio and the top election official in the key battleground state, also said Monday that he could assure Trump the election would not be rigged.
Trump’s most recent claims coincided with a plunge by him in the polls. Before now, Trump most recently made similar claims when his polls numbers were taking a dive in early August.
“And I’m telling you, November 8, we’d better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged,” the New York billionaire told Fox News host Sean Hannity in August. “And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
Multiple Republicans told Business Insider at the time that Trump’s assertion was both ludicrous and dangerous, as Trump would be the first US presidential candidate in modern times, possibly ever, to blame an election loss on voter fraud or a rigged election.
Allen Raymond, a former GOP operative who was involved in the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election phone-jamming scandal, called Trump’s continued insistence that the election would be rigged “detrimental to the Republic.”
“The idea that it’s rigged, I don’t know what he’s talking about,” he said in August. “I know someone that rigged elections. I mean, you know, the fact of the matter is Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to rig this election. Trump’s going to win Alabama and that’s it. She doesn’t have to do anything. It’s painful to watch.”
Raymond wrote “How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative” as a tell-all about the attempt to rig the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election between then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Republican US Rep. John E. Sununu. Raymond said that attempted rigging was centered on jamming the phone lines at the New Hampshire Democrats office in Manchester — a task his phone bank was hired to carry out. Sununu went on to win the election by roughly 20,000 votes. Shaheen defeated Sununu in a rematch in 2008.
The operative served a brief prison sentence for his involvement.
He said any attempts to rig an election would look similar to that — not what Trump’s talking about.
The Manhattan billionaire told The Washington Post in August that a lack of voter-identification laws would let people “just keep voting and voting and voting” and suggested fraud occurred in 2012 against Republican nominee Mitt Romney because there were “precincts where there were practically nobody voting for the Republican.”
“I don’t even know what he’s talking about,” Raymond said. “But this idea that it’s 1950 or 1960 and the party bosses are going to roll into Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and are going to rig the ballot box and rig the machines — that’s nonsense. An election rigging these days means something totally different than what he’s talking about. Now it’s stupid stuff like what I did in New Hampshire.”
He said the lack of voter-ID laws Trump was trying to use as proof of fraud this fall was also bogus.
“These voter-ID laws, what’s the intention of that? The clear intention is disenfranchisement,” he said, echoing a common complaint in liberal circles that voter-ID laws are put in place to prevent minority voting blocks from being able to cast ballots. “You know, there’s a reason we don’t have a poll tax anymore. Because it’s unconstitutional.
“People don’t vote 10 times,” he continued. “There might be one bad actor every once in a while who tries to vote a couple of times, but he’s talking about an institutional effort. It’s a total myth.”
He said Trump’s statements were an attempt to “basically sideline” Hillary Clinton’s first four years in office.
The idea of a rigged election came to the forefront after the Democratic National Committee had its emails hacked and leaked, though both Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Clinton’s main opponent in the Democratic primary, had claimed the electoral system was rigged earlier in the primary season. The emails showed that the organisation, which was supposed to remain neutral throughout the primary, favoured Clinton.
Trump said the email leak proved that the primary election was “rigged” against Sanders in his early-August interview with Hannity, in addition to such claims he perpetuated along the campaign trail. He used the leak as further evidence that the fall election would be rigged against him as well.
His prediction was ripped and mocked by both the Clinton campaign, which called it “dangerous” and “pathetic,” and President Barack Obama, who seemed baffled when asked about it in an early-August press conference.
“I don’t even know where to start on answering this question,” he said. “Of course the elections will not be rigged. What does that mean?”
“My suggestion would be go out there and try to win the election,” he continued, proceeding to mock Trump’s plummet in the polls. “If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and ends up losing, then he can raise some questions. But that doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment.”
Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told Business Insider at the time that Trump’s predictions were in line with the entire Trump persona: “Either he wins outright or he was cheated.”
“Look, I’m someone who believes voter fraud happens,” he said. “I believe voter-ID laws are entirely constitutional and necessary. But outright rigging has, at least since the ’60s, certainly has not happened. It’s never been proven in the country’s history. And the really scary thing about this is, we always have a peaceful transfer of power. And you can imagine with irresponsible statements like that, that a small percentage of his supporters won’t accept the election results as legitimate. That’s scary.”
Should Trump continue to assert that the election will be rigged and he ends up losing, Mackowiak said, it could lead to “some type of revolt.”
“Some type of very serious protest that could get out of hand,” he said. “It would be very difficult to ‘rig’ the election. We have 50 individual states that conduct elections.”
He called it a “preview of coming attractions for Trump.”
“He wants to shift blame for what is clearly a failing campaign and plant the seed now so he can harvest it when he needs it,” he said. “I think psychologically, that’s even more telling than anything else. He doesn’t often predict that he’s going to lose. Do I think he’s going to harp on this? Probably not.”
Mackowiak, the founder and president of the Potomac Strategy Group, repeated one word on a number of occassions to describe Trump’s accusations: dangerous.
“And I don’t even know if he realises how dangerous it is,” he said. “And, you know, we’ve got to have a peaceful transfer of power on November 8 no matter what the choice is. And this just raises the possibility that we won’t. That’s a really, really, really dangerous situation.”
NOW WATCH: ‘I don’t even really know where to start on answering this question’: Watch President Obama respond to Trump’s claim that the election will be rigged
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