Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Monday escalated his questioning of the U.S. electoral system’s integrity, large-scale “voter fraud” is already underway before the Nov. 8 election.
Trump has campaigned against a “rigged system” for months, but he’s homed in on voter fraud specifically as polls showed his chances deteriorating after his first debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on Sept. 26.
“We have all got to come together and win this election. We can’t have four more years of Obama (or worse!)” Trump tweeted Monday.
Experts say voter fraud isn’t an issue on the scale that would be required to tip a national election, and critics in both major parties and at voting-rights groups have decried his suspicion as dangerous.
“It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls,” said a 2007 report from the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice that the center has been referencing in light of Trump’s claims.
Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York who supports Trump, also sought to downplay fears of a rigged election in a radio interview in New York on Monday. "Is it legally rigged? No it’s not. Whoever wins, wins," he said.
In 2014, the report’s author wrote in the Washington Post that he’d found about 31 instances of voter fraud in U.S. elections dating back to 2000, in which more than 1 billion ballots were cast.
Courts considering Republican-backed voter-ID measures are increasingly coming to the same conclusion -- that there’s no evidence of widespread impersonation at U.S. polling places.
“It is reckless to make baseless claims of voter fraud without proffering proof,” Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said Monday. “It undermines our democratic process.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has sought to distance himself from Trump in an effort to save his legislative majority, is “fully confident” the election will be carried out with integrity, spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement Sunday. Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence said Sunday on NBC that he and Trump will “absolutely” accept the election outcome.
Strong did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
‘Bedrock of Democracy’
Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, pushed back on Trump forcefully.
“I am in charge of elections in Ohio, and they’re not going to be rigged,” Husted on CNN. “Our institutions, like our election system is one of the bedrocks of American democracy. We should not question it or the legitimacy of it. It works very well. In places like Ohio, we make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. We have a bipartisan system of elections.”
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters Monday that Trump’s comments showed his desperation.
“He knows he’s losing and he’s trying to blame that on the system,” Mook said. “This is what losers do. And we’re not even gonna give it any credit by amplifying it. It’s not true. The system is not rigged.”
A poll released Monday found some voters will be hard-pressed to accept that. About 4 in 10 registered voters said the election could be stolen from Trump due to voter fraud, including 73 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats, according to the Politico/Morning Consult survey taken Oct. 13-15.
Slide in Polls
Trump has been falling behind in the polls since the first debate, in which Clinton highlighted a Miss Universe winner whom Trump criticized for gaining weight.
Trump’s treatment of women stayed in the spotlight after the release of a 2005 hot-mic video where he bragged about being able to do anything to women because of his fame, and after several women went public with accusations Trump sexually assaulted them. Trump has denied the claims and blamed the media for working with the Clinton campaign to defeat him.
Clinton now leads by an average of 6.3 percentage points in national polls that include third-party candidates, according to RealClearPolitics. The forecaster FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton at 87.3 percent chance of winning in its poll-only model compared to 12.7 percent for Trump.
Trump and Clinton will meet for their third and final debate Wednesday in Las Vegas.
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