I helped cover the New Hampshire primary for Decision Desk HQ. While I was in somewhat serene Seabrook, other voting locations had lines of cars waiting to park so people could then get in line to vote, at 8 pm, which is the poll closing time. The New Hampshire secretary of state and even a judge got involved to ensure that everyone who wanted to vote, got to vote.
This election has been so hyped that I can imagine a record turnout. With 35 states offering early voting, the numbers so far indicate a giant jump in votes cast. In Georgia alone, more than 583,000 have voted–up 40 percent from this point in 2012. The Miami Herald reported that on Monday, the first day of early voting in Florida, some voters waited up to a half hour to cast their ballot.
In every primary state, the Republican primary attracted record numbers of voters, both for and against Trump. So what will Trump, who has been claiming the election is rigged and encouraging his “army” to go out and observe, do on election day to support his claims?
At least one group, StopTheSteal, led by Trump excrement-processor Roger Stone, says it plans to conduct exit polling to determine if results are accurate. With electronic voting, there’s not generally a paper trail–like with Florida’s disputed results in 2000–to follow back to a voter’s intention. All election officials have is what is tabulated in the memory of the voting machines, and the voter records of those who cast ballots. If a voter indicated they voted for Trump but the machine recorded a vote for Clinton, how can anyone know for sure?
This uncertainty could come into play.
Erick went into painful detail on exactly what it would take to rig the election, and how difficult that would be, even with vulnerable, old electronic voting gear. In 5 of 7 key swing states, Republicans control the secretary of state’s office, which means they control the programming of the voting machines. Trump would have to allege that Republicans are rigging the election for Democrats.
Of course, Trump has no problem at all making absurd claims like this.
He may have unlikely allies supporting his claims, however. As Roll Call reported, this is the first presidential election since 1964 without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. The Department of Justice will no longer be monitoring many of the southern states with the same rigor since the Supreme Court struck down portions of the law in 2013 (Shelby County v. Holder).
With that decision, jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination no longer required approval from the federal government to change the way they hold elections. This allowed states to introduce new laws such as tougher voter ID requirements. More than a dozen states changed their voting rules in the wake of the ruling.
The ruling also changed the formula that the Justice Department uses to allocate observers and monitors to election polling sites.
With less official observers, look for civil rights groups to be on guard for what they consider to be “voter suppression.”
“All of those factors are coming together to make the most problematic election in 50 years” in terms of voter suppression or intimidation, said Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “We have literally a perfect storm of chaos.”
In the midst of this, Trump is encouraging his supporters to go out and look for signs of rigging. The set piece is moving into unknown territory, because their presence may create enough havoc in certain precincts to trigger the same groups who likely support Hillary Clinton to lend credence to Trump’s claims.
In North Carolina, someone showed up to early voting with a badge saying “poll observer” and was photographing and videotaping cars coming and going and “generally, being a very intimidating factor there,” said Anita Earls of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham. The situation was stopped with a call to local officials.
Multiply that by 100, or 500, or 1,000. Massive turnout, long lines, a lack of trained official observers, electronic machines with some possible ties to Soros, and a bunch of unofficial observers with no credentials whatsoever. It’s a recipe for chaos and mayhem.
Given what happened at the Republican National Convention (talk about intimidation!), I would not put it past Trump to generate the most chaos possible, then use that, plus the inevitable claims from voting rights groups to make this election into a three ring circus.
That could explain his unfathomable response in the last debate of keeping us “in suspense” on his rigged election claims.
Or maybe it’s all going to be about nothing at all, and by 9:01 pm, we’ll know the seemingly inevitable result. Maybe Trump will appear by 10pm and concede, offering sincere congratulations to the woman he praised as a senator from New York. (Doing so at that hour, while polls on the west coast are still open, would be considered a major breach of party protocol, that only Jimmy Carter had the temerity to go through with.)
But I wouldn’t count on it.