McConnell, the Senate majority leader from Kentucky, must take a stand against Donald Trump’s irresponsible claims of vote rigging and election fraud. They are untrue, unproven and dangerous for the rule of law. McConnell, as the top establishment Republican, will do the country a great service if he calls it what it is: inaccurate fear-mongering.
The fact is that voter fraud occurs at such a minuscule level that it hardly ever affects a race. Moreover, it does not happen in the way that Trump and other Republicans seem to think: through in-person impersonation or individuals voting multiple times. The only proven fraud that exists, infrequent as it is, entails absentee balloting or paying off poll workers, typically to sway a local election. Voter ID laws, which Trump and others champion as a cure for our elections, would do nothing to solve that kind of fraud.
Yet a strict voter ID law would do nothing to prevent that wrongful activity. Hardly anyone shows up to the polls pretending to be someone else. Perhaps that is why Kentucky does not have a strict voter ID requirement, instead focusing its election integrity efforts on prosecuting the kind of fraud that does, occasionally, occur.
In fact, not only is in-person impersonation virtually nonexistent, but it is also patently stupid if one really wants to throw an election. It would take a massive effort with tons of people involved, and yet there would be very little chance of actually altering the outcome. This is because one would need a lot of complicit people to all go to the polls and pretend to be someone else to change the vote totals enough to sway an election.
Trump is calling on his supporters to show up at the polls in “certain places,” such as minority communities in Philadelphia, essentially sanctioning voter intimidation. We have already seen violence, not only at Trump rallies but also against Republicans at a GOP headquarters in North Carolina. Trump’s rhetoric is undermining the inherent virtue of our democracy, revered around the world: the peaceful transition of power.
Once again, McConnell can look to his own state to see what can happen if leaders from all sides do not renounce the dangerous and unfounded talk of election rigging. In January 1900, Democratic Kentucky gubernatorial candidate William Goebel was shot in the middle of a ballot-counting dispute. He then took the oath of office — despite serious questions about who actually won — and died four days later. The campaign was ugly, violence was expected, claims of election rigging were rampant, and unfortunately Kentucky was unable to avoid bloodshed over the election.
Republican leaders like McConnell can help defuse the current ramped-up rhetoric that could lead to actual violence by assuring the American people that, in fact, the presidential election will not suffer from election rigging, imagined or otherwise.
Virtually every election law expert, voting machine consultant, and government official with knowledge of Election Day processes agrees that the result of the 2016 presidential election will not suffer from election rigging or voter fraud.
Anyone who has seriously studied the issue knows that the level of voter fraud, although not zero, is minuscule, and that in-person impersonation hardly ever exists. Yet by saying it over and over, Trump is fanning flames that are dangerous for our democracy.
McConnell enjoys the privilege of having the word “Leader” before his title. For the good of the country, it is time for him to live up to that title and be a leader right now.