Many Republican leaders seemed shock that a candidate like Donald Trump would rise to become the party’s nominee after a campaign of demonizing immigrants, innuendo about President Obama and scapegoating Muslims, despite the fact that many top GOP leaders have launched similar attacks for years.
Trump has also benefited from Republicans’ frequent insistence that Democrats use voter fraud to win elections. Republican lawmakers have brushed aside studies that show that voter fraud is extremely rare — just 31 out of over a billion votes cast over 14 years may have been instances of voter impersonation — and instead have pursued sweeping legislation that would disenfranchise thousands of voters, particularly people of color and young people.
The GOP presidential candidate has told supporters that November’s election results will likely be “rigged” as people go “ to vote 10 times maybe” and charged that “phony” polls underrepresent his level of support because they don’t reflect his the size of the crowds at his rallies.
Ari Berman points out that if “Trump wanted to vote 10 times in New York — a state that requires voters to sign their names at the polls rather than show a photo ID — he’d have to vote in 10 different places, know the names and addresses of nine different registered voters in nine precincts, be able to forge their exact signatures, and know that they hadn’t voted yet. Each fraudulent vote would carry a penalty of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine, plus additional state penalties.”
Nonetheless, Trump believes that if he loses in November, it will be because the election was stolen: “I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
Such baseless rhetoric has obviously resonated with Republicans:Around half of GOP voters believe that Obama stole both of his election victories, a result of years of conservative complaints about how Democrats win elections thanks to massive fraud.
One anti-voting-fraud group, True the Vote, developed a smart phone app in 2014 to help users expose instances of fraudulent voting and “pull the curtain back on the myth that there is no voter fraud.” But as Miranda noted, “users recorded only 18 incidents of election irregularities,” and the vast majority had nothing to do with voter impersonation. Many right-wing fears about widespread voter fraud have made their way from chain emails to WorldNetDaily to Fox News, even though there is little evidence behind them.
Besides voter impersonation, many Republicans claim that undocumented immigrants are illegally voting in elections. Then-Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed that Obama unlawfully granted the right to vote to millions of undocumented immigrants before the 2012 election, even though Obama’s executive order on deportations did not grant anyone the right to vote. Fox News pundits have also raised the specter of undocumented immigrants illegally voting, even though in states like Arizona, there have only been two cases of undocumented residents voting in about 10 years. Several conservative commentators have even alleged that the Obama administration tried to win votes by handing out free cellphones.
In fact, far more common than actual cases of voter fraud or instances of conservatives admitting that the voter fraud myth is all about creating an excuse to pass restrictive laws that will help them win elections. Just a few months ago, former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, now president of the influential Heritage Foundation, said that voter ID laws are “something we’re working on all over the country, because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.” Shortly before that, Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman said that voter ID could make a difference in how his state votes in the upcoming election: “Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up and now we have voter ID and I think voter ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”
Donald Trump has never met a conspiracy theory that he doesn’t like. This one was handed to him on a silver platter by the party that is now trying to distance itself from his wildest claims.