‘Rigged’ charge creates bind for election chiefs
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Donald Trump amplified his unsubstantiated accusation Monday that the presidential election will be rigged, creating another gut-check moment for fellow Republicans, particularly those whose job it is to ensure a free and fair election.
The allegation, which Trump has been making for months, undercuts the core promise of democracy and sows seeds of doubt among his supporters that Hillary Clinton, if victorious, would be a legitimate president.
It’s another unprecedented claim in modern campaign history that includes a tradition of bipartisan support for the integrity of presidential elections in the interest of the peaceful transition of power, even from those who lost highly contested battles such as former Vice President Al Gore.
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”
For many in Trump’s party, it was another bridge too far. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, had already distanced themselves from the claim. But state election officials were under more pressure, with their competence as public servants being called into question.
They fought back by describing how elections work and noting that Trump cited no evidence in making his assertion.
“I can say on Twitter I’m a supermodel, but that doesn’t make it so,” said Lynn Bartels, spokeswoman for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, disputing Trump’s claims.
County clerks in her state released an open letter Monday, outlining the process’ security and transparency, adding that “our system is the best in the world and will achieve meaningful During a rally Monday in Green Bay, Wis., Donald Trump alleged fraud in the voting process. and credible outcomes.”
Presidential elections are conducted on a state and local basis, not nationally, with more than 8,000 jurisdictions administering elections. And in most of the states seen to varying degrees as presidential battlegrounds, the chief elections officers are Republicans, including in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah. They are elected by voters. Most are secretaries of state; Utah’s lieutenant governor oversees elections there.
In Florida, the secretary of state is appointed by the state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott — a Trump supporter. In North Carolina, the state board of elections has five members, appointed by the governor — a Republican. Its chairman and three out of five members are Republicans.
“I’m a little frustrated when candidates try to distract the public’s attention by blaming the technical side of the elections process rather than focus on the meat and potatoes of what Americans really want to hear about,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican.
Nearly half of Trump’s supporters lack confidence that ballots will be counted accurately, a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Monday found.
“Perception can become reality,” Pate said. “If you keep being told over and over and over that something is hacked even though it isn’t, some people might start believing that. So yes, I do take it seriously.”
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Trump supporter, was equally incensed, telling CNN that Trump’s talk was “irresponsible.”
There are battleground