‘Rig­ging’ elec­tion eas­ier said than done: Ex­perts

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Repub­li­can can­di­date Don­ald Trump has made the in­sis­tent claim that the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions are be­ing “rigged,” but ex­perts say mas­sive voter fraud is highly un­likely in a sys­tem as de­cen­tral­ized as the United States. “There are a lot of safe­guards in place that would pre­clude that from hap­pen­ing, from fed­eral laws to lo­cal and state laws as well,” said Jo-Re­nee Formi­cola, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Se­ton Hall University.

The US elec­tion sys­tem is far from per­fect, as il­lus­trated by the im­broglio over the vote count in Florida dur­ing the 2000 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion be­tween Ge­orge W Bush and Al Gore. A con­ser­va­tive-ma­jor­ity Supreme Court fi­nally ruled in fa­vor of Bush, but the sense of a “stolen” elec­tion lin­gered on among some Democrats-who never fully ac­cepted the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent as le­git­i­mate. But 16 years later, the chances of mass fraud mar­ring the con­test be­tween Trump and his Demo­crat ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton are re­mote, ex­perts say.

Even na­tional elec­tions like the one on Novem­ber 8 are or­ga­nized not by the fed­eral govern­ment but by US states, and they tend to del­e­gate the task to a wel­ter of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. “The fact that ev­ery sin­gle vot­ing district would be in­volved in a fraud is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble be­cause there are so many dif­fer­ent kinds of dis­tricts,” Formi­cola said. A mo­saic of vot­ing sys­tems-some us­ing elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines, oth­ers pa­per bal­lots, and still oth­ers both-add a level of com­plex­ity that would tend to thwart any at­tempt at whole­sale voter fraud, the ex­perts say.

Be­sides, Repub­li­can elec­tion of­fi­cials over­see the vote in most of the key bat­tle­grounds of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, states like Colorado, Iowa, Michi­gan and Ari­zona. “In per­son voter fraud-that’s when some­one shows up and pre­tends to be some­one else-is in­cred­i­bly rare, al­most never happens and there is no ev­i­dence that it happens in numbers that are any­where close to hav­ing an ef­fect, even in a close elec­tion,” said Cor­nell Law School pro­fes­sor Zachary Clop­ton.

Ev­i­dence lack­ing

Trump’s charges of im­pend­ing voter fraud have es­ca­lated as he has sunk be­low Hil­lary Clin­ton, his Demo­cratic ri­val, in the polls. While pro­vid­ing no ev­i­dence to back his claims, the New York bil­lion­aire has cast sus­pi­cion on vot­ing in ur­ban ar­eas where Clin­ton en­joys strong back­ing from black and His­panic vot­ers.

“Mr Trump, for ex­am­ple, has called out Philadel­phia as a place where he thinks there might be fraud,” said Clop­ton. “I think there is vir­tu­ally no ev­i­dence of in-per­son voter fraud at all, but I guess the idea would be that it would hap­pen in a few places.” Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Tues­day de­rided Trump’s at­tacks. “I have never seen in my life­time or in mod­ern po­lit­i­cal his­tory any pres­i­den­tial can­di­date trying to dis­credit the elec­tions and the elec­tion process be­fore votes have even taken place. It’s un­prece­dented,” Obama said. “If, when­ever things are go­ing badly for you and you lose, you start blam­ing some­body else? Then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job,” he said.

While the risk of in-per­son fraud is seen as min­i­mal, there are more se­ri­ous con­cerns that hack­ers could pose a threat on Elec­tion Day-fu­elled by re­cent in­tru­sions at­trib­uted to Rus­sian hack­ers in voter regis­tra­tion data­bases in Illi­nois and Ari­zona. Those in­ci­dents have spurred fed­eral au­thor­i­ties to of­fer lo­cal au­thor­i­ties their ex­per­tise in pro­tect­ing their sys­tems against hack­ers.


COLORADO: Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump ar­rives to speak at a rally at the Nor­ris-Pen­rose Event Cen­ter in Colorado Springs.

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