Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Officials Fight Donald Trump’s Claims of a Rigged Vote By JONATHAN MARTIN and ALEXANDER BURNS

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders and election officials from both parties on Sunday sought to combat claims by Donald J. Trump that the election is rigged against him, amid signs that Mr. Trump’s contention is eroding confidence in the vote and setting off talk of rebellion among his supporters. In a vivid illustration of how Mr. Trump is shattering American political norms, the Republican nominee is alleging that a conspiracy is underway between the news media and the Democratic Party to commit vast election fraud. He has offered no evidence to support his claim.

“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary — but also at many polling places — SAD,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Mr. Trump made the incendiary assertion hours after his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, tried to play down Mr. Trump’s questioning of the fairness of the election. Mr. Pence said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he and Mr. Trump “will absolutely accept the result of the election.”

Mr. Trump’s words, though, appear to be having an effect on his supporters, and are setting off deep concern among civil rights groups. According to an Associated Press poll last month, only one-third of Republicans said they had a great deal of confidence their votes would be counted fairly. And election officials are worried that Mr. Trump’s continued pressing of the issue could dampen turnout or cause his supporters to deny the legitimacy of the results if he loses.

….American elections are, unlike those in many democracies, largely decentralized, rendering the possibility of large-scale fraud extraordinarily unlikely. Further, the balloting in many of the hardest-fought states will be overseen by Republican officials, individuals who would be highly unlikely to consent to helping Mrs. Clinton rig the vote.

Chris Ashby, a Republican election lawyer, said Mr. Trump’s attacks on the electoral process were unprecedented and risked creating a fiasco on Election Day. Mr. Ashby also said that Mr. Trump was “destabilizing” the election by encouraging his supporters to deputize themselves as amateur poll monitors, outside the bounds of the law.

“That’s going to create a disturbance and, played out in polling places across the country, it has the potential to destabilize the election,” Mr. Ashby said, “which is very, very dangerous.”
Mr. Trump’s claims, a little more than three weeks before the election, are once again forcing elected Republicans into a difficult spot as they try to balance offering assurances of the integrity of the election while not undercutting a standard-bearer many of their voters fervently support.

“Our secretary of state, Ken Detzner, has been very focused on making sure we have a smooth election,” said Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, noting that Mr. Scott’s “goal is 100 percent participation and zero percent fraud.”

Representatives of other Republican governors offered only a terse “yes” when asked if their state’s balloting would be conducted fairly. Yet other Republicans are appalled at Mr. Trump’s claims of widespread fraud, which are now a staple of his stump speech.

“It is so irresponsible because what he’s doing really goes to the heart of our democracy,” said Trey Grayson, a Republican and former secretary of state of Kentucky. “What is great about America is that we change our leaders at the ballot box, not by bullets,” Mr. Grayson said. Still, some of Mr. Trump’s loyal backers are rousing one another with talk of insurrection should Mr. Trump be defeated.

In Wisconsin, David A. Clarke Jr., the sheriff of Milwaukee County, posted on Twitter on Saturday that it was “pitchforks and torches time,” along with a photograph of an angry mob wielding weapons. Mr. Clarke addressed the Republican National Convention in July and appears regularly on television as a Trump campaign surrogate.

Also, elements of Mr. Trump’s crowds have turned violent. At a rally in North Carolina on Friday, in which he alleged a large-scale conspiracy against him, one supporter lashed out physically at a protester in the crowd. And a CBS affiliate in Virginia reported over the weekend that pro-Trump demonstrators had flashed firearms outside the office of a Democratic congressional candidate near Charlottesville, in a threatening signal... read more: