GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump is fearmongering over a “rigged” election. He’s saying that if he loses, it will be because the system has somehow conspired against him. We’d love to dive into all the very, very, many reasons that Americans actually aren’t voting for Trump (a.k.a., the real reason he won’t win). But we just have to highlight how Trump took his “rigged” election claims an outrageous step further: He has alleged that he will be the victim of “voter fraud” — an utterly bogus claim. Voter fraud is extremely rare. Since 2000, there have been only 31 incidents of voter fraud, out of 1 billion votes cast. That hasn’t stopped Trump from using his false claims to encourage his supporters to closely “watch the polls” for voter fraud.
What is voter suppression?
It’s making laws that lead to big burdens for voters; it shows up in voting restrictions that are often framed as ways to stop voter fraud and electoral corruption.
Here’s where this gets real scary: Trump’s rhetoric could lead to real voter suppression and violence. And when Trump indicated that he’d reject the election’s results if he loses, he wasn’t just whining — he was stoking his supporters’ threats of violence, and encouraging voter intimidation and racial profiling at the polls. It’s no surprise that the KKK, neo-Nazis, and militias plan to “monitor” polling places in an effort to depress the Black vote.
What is voter intimidation?
It’s trying to coerce the voting behavior of a group of voters, and it’s a federal crime.
Trump is fanning the flames of violence, all while playing the victim. It’s despicable, and it’s dangerous. It’s also reminiscent of dark times in our country: Remember the violence and voter harassment during the Civil Rights movement? Or the Reconstruction-era Jim Crow South, when armed “poll watchers” showed up under the guise of keeping the process clean?
Recently, a Trump official boasted that the campaign has "three major voter suppression operations under way,” and that Black voters are one of the targeted groups. And he’s not alone. Politicians up and down the GOP ticket support the same extreme, backward policies he does. We call them the party of Trump, and they support efforts to suppress voters from marginalized communities, who tend to vote for candidates who care about them (naturally).
This isn't the first time the GOP has tried to suppress voters — they’ve been at it for decades. Back in the 1980s, courts had to step in and block the GOP from intimidating Black and Latino voters. This year, the RNC coordinated with the Trump campaign to suppress the vote in these same communities. A judge just let the RNC off the hook, but that doesn’t overshadow the fact that Democratic officials in several states had to sue the Trump campaign for violating the Voting Rights Act — along with conspiring to intimidate minorities and purging Black voters from registration lists to keep would-be Democratic voters from casting their ballots.
The biggest recent blow to voting rights came three years ago, when the Supreme Court struck down a major part of the Voting Rights Act. That decision opened the doors to new voting restrictions, limiting the Justice Department’s power to stop discriminatory voting laws and blocking it from sending its own election observers to the polls sans court order. The impact of the ruling will be felt in the general election for the first time this year, in part because the Department won’t be deploying hundreds of federal election observers like it did in 2012.
So what’s the real threat to votes being cast in the 2016 election? Not a “rigged” system against Trump. Rather, it’s the restrictive voter ID laws, voter registration requirements, decreased early voting options, and polling site cuts passed in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision — plus likely voter intimidation from Trump’s own supporters.
The Impact of Voter Suppression Laws on Voters of Color
The story doesn’t end there. To understand voter suppression, you need to know that it harms those who are most impacted by anti-reproductive health and rights laws — communities of color, young people, LGBTQ people, and people with low incomes — and it directly impedes their ability to fight back against political attempts to control their bodies and reproductive health. Without the right to vote, these communities all lose the right to choose and plan their futures.
Since the gutting of a key section of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013, more and more states have enacted measures that actively suppress voter turnout, specifically in communities of color. The impact of voter ID laws and the closure of polling locations on college campuses and in communities of color is profound. In the most extreme cases, the voter suppression tactics engineered by conservative lawmakers effectively disenfranchised vast swaths of already marginalized communities. And strict voter ID laws in states have already been shown to have an effect in past general elections, causing Black and Latino turnout to sink in relation to the white vote.
How to Respond if You Care About Voting Rights
First of all, don’t lose faith in the election, and don’t let fear keep you from the polls. That’s just what Trump and his cronies are trying to do. There is too much at stake this election for you to sit home.
Go to the polls. Go vote.
If you see intimidation at the polls or any other issues while voting, call the Election Protection hotline: