It has been one of the central themes of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for weeks: the election is going to be rigged. “Crooked Hillary” is going to steal what is rightfully his, and he wants his followers to do something about it. The charge is so ludicrous that Trump has been ridiculed in the media and by Democrats for making it. Now two Republican senators who are locked in tight re-election races are telling Trump to just shut up.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey addressed the issue separately in debates against their Democratic opponents on Monday evening. Toomey, who is currently trailing Democrat Katie McGinty by a slim margin, said this in response to a question about Trump’s charges:
Our elections may not always be completely perfect, but they are legitimate, they have integrity and everyone needs to respect the outcome.
Rubio offered a similar answer during his debate with opponent Patrick Murphy and explained in greater detail. He noted that in Florida, each of the 67 counties handles its own election affairs. “I promise you there is not a 67-county conspiracy to rig this election,” he said. Rubio also noted that Rick Scott, Florida’s Trump-supporting Republican governor, appoints the people who oversee the elections.
Despite numerous counters to Trump’s “rigged election” claim, his message is resonating with some voters — mainly those who are firmly in his camp. A new Politico/Morning Consult poll released on Monday found some 41 percent of respondents believe the election could be “stolen” due to widespread voter fraud. While only minorities of Democrats and independents (17 percent 39 percent respectively) said they think a rigged election is a serious concern, 73 percent of Republicans said they saw it as a distinct possibility.
The belief that widespread voter fraud allows Democrats to win elections has been perpetuated on the right for a number of years; probably fueled most recently by the refusal of many to believe that Americans would elect a black president. But even the far right Heritage Foundation largely failed to make the case for extensive voter fraud. In 2015 they released a report detailing 300 convictions for voter fraud from across the country. In a nation where millions of votes are cast in various elections every year, 300 convictions doesn’t sound like much at all. But the Heritage study covers multiple years and elections, which turns 300 convictions from “not much” to “minuscule.” Even if they were off by a factor of 100, and there were many more people committing voter fraud than were being caught, on a nationwide basis voter fraud would still be a small fraction of one percent of all ballots cast.
Republicans like Toomey and Rubio, who still have a chance to win their elections, want Trump to shut up on the topic of a rigged election. But this is Trump we’re talking about. His ego isn’t about to tell him to accept defeat and go quietly. So we’ll keep hearing about how he was cheated out of the presidency through November 8 and beyond. Believe me.