Donald Trump is losing badly to Hillary Clinton in recent national and swing state polls. Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, he’s claiming that if he loses the election, it will be because the election was “rigged.” He has called for police chiefs and volunteers to monitor voting precincts to ensure that people aren’t voting “four or five times”. And should he lose, he’s suggested “2nd Amendment people” could “do something” about Hillary and any judges she might try and appoint.
Trump is right about one thing: the election is rigged. Just not in the way that his simple mind supposes. And what Trump is complaining about is, essentially, that courts are allowing too many black people vote.
While most commentators are concentrating on the danger of calling into question the legitimacy of the presidential election; I’ll get into the specifics of his claims.
The Voting Rights Act was built on the backs of MLK, JFK, LBJ, and scores of Movement leaders. Section 2 of the VRA says that elections processes which disproportionally harm black folks (disparate impact) are unconstitutional. Section 5 said that states with both a historical and recent record of enacting unconstitutional voting laws had to get preclearance from the Department of Justice before changing elections procedures. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled preclearance unconstitutional. Since racist voting laws had spread north, they reasoned, southern states could no longer be singled out.
Within days, a number of southern states enacted racist voting laws that they previously could not. Republicans had studied the ways black folks were most likely to vote, and systematically outlawed those methods. One in four blacks do not have a current state ID, so they began requiring state ID at the polls, not just when registering to vote. (And closed licensing offices to make it harder to get an ID.) Knowing whites are more likely to own firearms – they accepted gun licenses as valid Voter ID, but not state-issued student IDs. They closed precincts in black neighborhoods and cut the hours of those remaining. Black folks tend to take advantage of early voting, and souls to the polls on Sunday. So they slashed early voting and eliminated Sunday voting. Neither of which has a thing to do with voter fraud.
Section 2 of the VRA remains intact, so laws with disparate impact on black folks are still unconstitutional. But since the SCOTUS gutted Section 5, the Department of Justice is left to sue states after the fact. Often after elections – after the damage has been done.
Voters in Wisconsin will likely be subject to such provisions in November, 2016, thanks to three Republicans in a federal appeals court. Fortunately, courts recently have stepped in in Texas and North Carolina, where Republicans have used the most egregious methods to try and keep black folks from voting. But those aren’t swing states. However, in 2014, Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law was overturned when they admitted in court that they could not find a single case of voter fraud in that their law would have prevented.
Ergo, the election is rigged against Trump. He’s mad that he just found out Republicans in Pennsylvania we’re caught passing racist voting laws, and he needs an excuse should he lose in November.
Again, the very state Trump points to couldn’t find a single case. Which stands to reason, since the type of voter-fraud the law would prevent is the most inefficient way to go about it. A person would have to physically go from location to location; they’d need a new fake ID each time; they’d have to know that the person they were impersonating was already registered to vote, but would not be voting for president. Logistical nightmare requiring of a chrystal ball. Yet this is Trump’s evidence of an illegitimate election; and his excuse.
Importantly, voter fraud does occur. Just not in the way Trump, and the Republicans feeding him this nonsense, are saying. Most common is when people steal mail-in ballots from nursing homes. But old people disproportionally use mail-in voting – and disproportionally vote Republican – so Republicans have no interest in curtailing mail-in voter fraud. Ballots are sometimes misplaced – it took a month to count the CA Democratic primary votes; the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus never did figure out who actually won. Voter registrations are sometimes thrown away, so folks who think they’re registered are turned away on Election Day. Felons can’t vote in some states. Often people with similar names to felons, or to someone who died, or people who have moved, or hadn’t voted in recent elections – are given provisional ballots which aren’t counted.
Trump, and Republicans generally, have no interest in the actual ways our electoral system is rigged or the ways in which American citizens are restricted from the franchise – it’s just the opposite. While screaming that the election is rigged against him, he is, in effect, demanding that Republicans be allowed to disenfranchise black people around the country in order to rig the election in his favor.
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