On August 24th, Trump received his formal nomination ahead of November’s presidential election. The first day of the Republican National Convention saw Trump’s supporters attempting to create an optimistic atmosphere but the President took a different approach.
His speech was full of warnings that the election could be “rigged” due to the projected increase in votes by mail and drop-off boxes as a result of coronavirus measures.
At least three quarters of American voters will be eligible to vote by mail which could amount to double the number of mail votes compared to 2016. This seems like a common-sense option in the midst of a pandemic, but the Republicans fear it will lead to fraud and unfairly favour the Democrats.
Trump’s claim that they are trying to “defraud the American people” and that it “is the greatest scam in the history of politics…beyond our nation” is rather outlandish considering the current protests against corrupt elections in Belarus and the problem of undemocratic elections around the world. But is there any soundness to his fears?
Six states are already planning to hold only mail ballot elections. However, unlike Pennsylvania, none of these are expected to be battleground states. Pennsylvania could swing either way.
In response to the placement of voting drop boxes across the state, the Republican campaign filed a lawsuit to prevent their use. Trump has also been accused of purposefully weakening the US Postal System by blocking its emergency funding.
Along with the appointment of Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor, as the new Postmaster General, this has contributed to inefficiencies in the postal service that does not bode well for the oncoming influx of mail votes. There may be backlogs on election day but is there any evidence to suggest there will be fraud?
According to The Washington Post, there were only four documented cases of voter fraud during the 2016 election. The Brennan Center for Justice also found that most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually down to clerical errors and data handling mistakes.
If Trump loses, he will probably lose fair and square and there is one big reason why that outcome is not unlikely: Coronavirus. People are unimpressed by his handling of the pandemic, from deliberately slowing down testing so numbers look better to the lack of federal support for states.
This is not the first time Trump has complained about botched elections. Even after he won in 2016, he blamed Clinton’s winning of the popular vote on electoral fraud. But does this mean we should dismiss his naysaying? Perhaps not.
The Economist found that this year’s election may face double the chance of recounts in battleground states due to the multiple errors that can lead to postal votes being rejected.
In June’s primaries, the number of Democrats who chose to vote by mail was over double the number of Republicans, which perhaps justifies Republicans’ worries that Democrats will be benefitted by a greater dependence on postal votes.
Trump has been very ambiguous about whether he will accept the election results. It is likely he will if he wins. But with the Attorney General William Barr in agreement that the elections could be subject to fraud, Trump may have a leg to stand on if he rejects the result. No one really knows what will happen then.