Watch Out For November 9th
With just 12 days until the 2016 Presidential Election, all eyes are on November 8th. But what about what happens after the election – that is, if Donald Trump loses the election.
For the last few weeks, Donald Trump has aggressively insisted that widespread voter fraud could cost him the election. The conspiracy includes deceased voters and undocumented immigrants casting ballots, as well as double voting. Throughout his campaign for president, Donald Trump has made many outrageous and downright false claims, but no claim is potentially more dangerous than his assertion of widespread election fraud.
The legitimacy of our government relies on the “consent of the governed.” It relies on our acceptance of authority and on the peaceful transfer of power. When Trump says that he will only accept the election results if they are in his favor, he is essentially stating that Hillary Clinton can only win if the election is rigged. And if the election is rigged, then our democratic system is illegitimate.
To prevent voter fraud and to “Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election,” Trump has called on his supporters to sign up to be election observers. Civil rights activists are worried that Trump’s claim of inner-city voter fraud and his encouragement of supporters to watch polling places in “certain areas” and “other communities” amount to racial attacks. What is important is not as much what Trump says, but what his supporters hear. One Trump supporter, Steve Webb from Ohio said, ““Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure. I’ll look for . . . well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American." Racially profiling is illegal, as is voter intimidation.
While there are instances of voter fraud, in-person voter fraud is very rare. Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor found 31 known cases out of one billion votes cast from 2000 to 2014. Under President Bush, the Department of Justice turned up 86 convictions of voter fraud out of almost 200 million ballots cast between 2002 and 2006. Voter fraud exists, but on a very small scale.
Republicans have used worries about voter fraud to pass legislation that makes it more difficult for certain voters to vote. Many states have passed voting laws that have disproportionately affected minorities, the poor, and the elderly. Thankfully, some of these laws have recently been blocked or limited. The North Carolina “Monster” ID law made cuts to early voting, eliminated out-of-precinct voting, eliminated same-day registration voting, and required voters to show specific types of photo identification. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law, calling it the “most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the year of Jim Crow.” The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that provisions must be made to the strict Texas voter ID law because it discriminates against minority voters. They found that African American, Hispanic, and poor voters were most likely to affected as they often lack the specific kind of identification required.
A recent study at the University of San Diego found “substantial drops in turnout for minorities under strict voter ID laws.” It also found that these laws cause a larger reduction in Democratic turnout than Republican, thereby altering the electorate to the right. The Republican Party has continuously claimed that the Democrats are the ones rigging the elections. Yet it is the Republican Party who have suppressed the votes of minority, elderly, and poor Americans by backing strict voter identification laws.
If Donald Trump loses, his supporters will undoubtedly say it was because the election was rigged. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on October 21st found that nearly 70% of Republicans believe that if Hillary Clinton wins the election, it will be due to “illegal voting or vote rigging.” The same survey found that only 50% of Republicans would accept Clinton as their president.
Donald Trump supporters have a reputation for being angry, racist, xenophobic and violent. We have seen violence erupt at Trump rallies throughout the country. We have heard his supporters scream obscenities and expletives at and about minorities, immigrants, Muslims. We have heard them call for Hillary Clinton to be locked up, shot, and hanged. One Trump supporter said that if Clinton were to win, “we’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office … there is going to be a lot of bloodshed.” It is hard to fathom what a Hillary Clinton victory would actually look like. We know that Trump and his supporters will not accept the results of the election if he loses. While Trump may possibly contest the results, how will his supporters react? Will this violence carry on after the election?
If and when Donald Trump loses, he will go back to his life as a wealthy Manhattan business man, leaving behind the very angry, disenfranchised pockets of Americans who feel as if they have found some legitimacy during this election. They will be left feeling even more angry, alienated, and uneasy. Where will they turn?