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VIDEO: Have US Elections Ever Been Rigged?

Bookwitty By Bookwitty Published on October 19, 2016

Award-winning journalist and author Andrew Gumbel speaks with Bookwitty about the history of rigged elections in the US. He explains dog whistle politics and the general lack of voting standards in elections. In light of presidential candidate Donald Trump's recent remarks, we asked Gumbel if there is any truth to the allegations of a rigged election.

In the closing stages of the U.S. presidential campaign, Donald Trump is going all-in with his allegation that the election will be rigged against him. A poll published on October 17 by Politico shows that 41 per cent of the electorate believes  that the election could indeed be stolen due to widespread voter fraud.

Is Trump right? 

The short answer is: no. The kind of fraud he is talking about – at the level of individual voter – is passingly rare. The Brennan Center for Justice found just 31 credible reports out of more than a billion ballots cast nationwide between 2000 and the last national elections in 2014. And it's all but unprecedented for a candidate to allege fraud before the vote has even taken place.

Still, Trump is tapping into a longstanding – and in large measure justified – mistrust of an overly partisan, insufficiently transparent or fair electoral system. Historically, that system has been rigged not against the sort of voters who have flocked to his cause but those he targets, particularly minorities and the poor. There are plentiful instances even in the recent past of state and local election officials manipulating registration lists, voting rules, access to polling stations and even, occasionally, the vote count itself for partisan advantage.

One irony of Trump's fraud allegations is that many of the swing states where the election is likely to be decided – Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, and others – will have their votes certified by Republican state officials. And those officials – many of whom have endorsed tough new voter ID regulations and other administrative maneuvers likely to suppress the vote of their Democratic opponents – have bristled at the idea that the election will be mismanaged or stolen. So Trump is unlikely to have much ammunition for a formal contest if, as the polls suggest, he loses on November 8. Will that stop him from crying foul once the counting is over? 

Given his personality and track record: unlikely.

Watch Gumbel's answer to "Have US elections ever been rigged?" below.

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