Donald Trump has been raising doubts about the integrity of the election for months, but his running mate and other GOP leaders are taking a more cautious tone.
“We will absolutely accept the result of the election,” Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence said on NBC’s Meet The Press Sunday. “Look, the American people will speak in an election that will culminate on November the 8th. But the American people are tired of the obvious bias in the national media.”
Trump had recently been putting the emphasis of his “rigged” message less on actual voter fraud and more on the idea that the media is making it impossible for him to win by reporting on allegations of sexual assault, which Trump calls “phony.”
“The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect Hillary Clinton president,” Trump said at a rally in Bangor, Maine, on Saturday. “We are going to stop it. We are not going to back down.”
Then on Sunday afternoon, Trump tweeted that the election is being rigged by “dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary - but also at many polling places.”
There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S., as we’ve reported:
As of 2014, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who has spent years tracking fraud allegations had found only 31 instances of voter fraud out of more than 1 billion votes cast.
For months, Trump has suggested that there could be actual rigging of voting systems. In August, as he fell far behind in polls after a feud with the family of a fallen Army captain who was Muslim, Trump told a crowd in Pennsylvania that the only way he would lose is if “cheating” goes on. “We have to call up law enforcement. And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching,” Trump said at the time. (Trump has been significantly behind Clinton in Pennsylvania polls since early August.)
He spoke of possible voter fraud in Philadelphia. There was a case of alleged voter intimidation there in 2008 against members of the New Black Panther Party, though the charges were dropped by the Department of Justice. In addition to Trump’s calls for supporters to watch the polls “in certain areas,” his campaign also recruited supporters to sign up as poll watchers.
Trump supporters Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, both cited allegations of votes cast for Democrats on behalf of dead people in the past on Sunday.
Pence focused on the question of media bias as he tried to tamp down the idea that Trump would cast serious doubt on the outcome of the election if he loses on Nov. 8th. The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who Trump has been feuding with, put out a statement on Saturday to push back on the idea of an illegitimate vote.
“Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” the statement from Ryan spokeswoman Ashlee Strong said.
But it’s clear some Trump supporters are already convinced impropriety at polling places is likely. “I know that there is voter fraud,” Laurie Brown of Charlotte, N.C., told NPR outside a Trump rally in that city on Friday. She said she believed she witnessed vote rigging at a precinct in 2012. “We have no institutions left in this country that I believe are not corrupt.”
Some Trump supporters have even spoken of violence if Clinton is elected.
Democrats have pushed back on this rhetoric and charge that Trump is playing along with interference in the electoral process by Russia, who the U.S. government says is behind the hacking of emails from political organizations. Emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta have been released by WikiLeaks in the past few months.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said of Trump on Sunday, “I think he ought to, instead of making weird claims that our election is rigged and challenging the integrity of the American electoral process, he should be standing up against people who are trying to destabilize our election.”
“Great leaders encourage more democracy, not less. Donald Trump is trying to convince voters that their votes don’t count by telling them that the system is rigged. He’s wrong,” interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile said in a statement on Saturday. “Voting has never been easier and more Americans are seeing Donald Trump’s fear mongering for what it really is. Fear.”
Brazile rose to her post after embarrassing emails released by WikiLeaks forced Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step down as head of the DNC in July.
Trump’s talk of a “rigged” election has increased in recent days as his poll numbers have sunk. His support was shrinking even before a 2005 videotape surfaced of Trump bragging about groping and kissing women without their consent. Since then, Trump’s poll numbers nationally and across key battleground states have taken a serious hit.
Trump has spoken in the last several days about the prospect of losing. Aside from placing blame on “rigging,” Trump has said losing the election “will be the greatest waste of time, money and energy.”
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