Montana Viewpoint: Winner claims fraud—that’s a first

JE

Jim Elliott

Donald Trump has been legitimately elected president of the United States, and Democrats need to get over it and move on. But so does Donald Trump.

Although Trump had a big victory it is apparently not big enough. He is now claiming that he should have gotten the majority of the popular vote as well as the Electoral College vote and is claiming that millions of people cast ballots illegally, and all for Clinton. This is the first time I have ever heard of a winning candidate claiming voter fraud.

It is not often that candidates who get the most votes nationally do not win the Electoral College vote, but it has happened this time and many Democrats are portraying Trump as an illegitimate president because of it. But both candidates ran a race based on the same rules—that the person who wins the Electoral College vote wins the election.

Neither of them ran a race to garner only the majority of the popular vote. I believe that Clinton at least understands that and has accepted it, but many Democrats have not and have called the legitimacy of the election and the entire Electoral College into question.

They may have a point, but it will not change the outcome of this election or any other one.

Only in four presidential elections has the winner of the Electoral College vote received a minority of the popular vote; 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016. In 2000 the balance of the Electoral College tally hinged on the vote in Florida, where George W. Bush outpolled Al Gore by 538 votes. Obviously, a recount was in order, and much time and attention was spent in making sure the ballots were tallied correctly.

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The issue was eventually decided by the Supreme Court in Bush’s favor. Gore graciously conceded defeat in 2000, as did Clinton in 2016. The Democratic electorate has not been so gracious. In both elections, the rules were followed and the results were accepted by all but a vociferous group of dissatisfied voters.

But now it is the winner who is not graciously claiming victory, and we may be faced with paying the unnecessary expense of a long federal investigation into “voter fraud.” There have already been numerous studies of “voter fraud” by independent, non-partisan organizations. The overwhelming evidence is that voter fraud is virtually non-existent in the United States.

Prominent among the these is one from the Brennan Center for Justice: (https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud-myth ). Among the many studies it cites is one from Arizona State University that found 10 instances of voter impersonation nationally from 2000 to 1012.

In the 2016 election, however, two Trump supporters have been charged with election fraud. In Madison County, Ill., an 88-year-old election judge has been charged with two felonies for voting her recently deceased husband’s mail-in ballot, and a woman in Des Moines, Iowa, was arrested for election fraud by voting at one polling place and then going to another to vote a second time.

The telling thing is that these two voters were caught in the act of committing election fraud, which indicates that mechanisms to detect illegal voting are already effective.

One of the justifications for believing in widespread prevalence of voting fraud is that county voting lists are woefully out of date. They are, but that’s not news; they always have been. That’s because it has always been difficult for elections officials to know who has moved or died. But the fact that this has been a problem for years and years without having previously generated charges of voter fraud speaks to the fact that these list inaccuracies do not lead to voter fraud.

A more important issue is that many Americans have been disenfranchised by laws passed in the name of preventing voter fraud.

During this last election, federal judges struck down voting restrictions in several states. The laws voided were passed by Republican legislatures to suppress voting by groups who largely vote for Democrats. In North Carolina, for instance, the Court held that the voting restrictions targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

If we are going to be protected from something it would be nice to be protected from something real.

Jim Elliott is a former chairman of the Montana Democratic Party and a former state senator from Trout Creek.

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