Vote recount efforts in three key battleground states that played a major part in Hillary Clinton’s defeat during the presidential election are now being attacked by president-elect Donald Trump’s attorneys.
On Friday, Dec. 2, election officials in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were waiting to see how legal maneuvering by President-elect Donald Trump’s legal team to halt or block a recount would impact the effort headed by third-party candidate Jill Stein. Hillary Clinton’s campaign team has announced that it will back the recount effort.
Was the 2016 presidential election rigged? Prior to winning, Trump believed it was.
The day after the election, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today” his campaign believes that everything was, and is, rigged against him. “He certainly would say the system is rigged,” Conway said.
One of the first times during his campaign Trump mentioned the election was being rigged was back on Aug. 1. Trump appeared on Fox News and spoke with Sean Hannity. Trump told Hannity, “I’m telling you — November 8, we better be careful, because that election’s going to be rigged.”
A few months later, in mid-October, Trump still insisted on the election being rigged. This time, though, the idea of an election actually being rigged spread through the media like wildfire — at every one of his rallies.
However, there was a turning point in this “rigged election” message from Trump. In late October, Hillary Clinton was re-investigated by the FBI for her emails, some of which had been discovered on the computer of Anthony Weiner, a former New York Congressman. Once this happened, Trump said the election might not be as rigged as he thought.
On Nov. 6, two days before the general election, the FBI had finished reviewing the newly discovered emails and cleared Clinton once again of any wrongdoing. In response, Trump told reporters, as well as supporters at his rallies, that the system was still rigged and Clinton was being protected because of it.
“It’s irresponsible and it’s ignorant at best,” Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican lead election official in Utah, told Politico. “It’s very troublesome and I can assure you there is no deep-rooted conspiracy here in the state of Utah to have a rigged election.”
Cox is not the only one in Utah vouching this. Bryan Thompson, the Utah County Clerk/Auditor, said, “I can never give, nor will I ever give, a hundred percent guarantee that nothing is infallible. But, with that being said, we have gone above and beyond to make sure our systems are secure.”
Cox and county clerks in Utah were not the only ones disputing Trump’s accusations. Michelle Larrick, the director for Noble County Board-Elections in Ohio, said it would be very unlikely for an election to be rigged in her county because of the checks and balances they perform.
Margie Laramore, the Calhoun County Supervisor for Elections in Florida, said, “Because we use paper ballots, and there will always be a paper trail. So if you were to have a question about our election, you can always go back and count the ballots.”
Laramore also said, “Everything is documented — I mean everything. We have witnesses for just about everything we do here.”
There are many operations election offices must follow in order to make sure the results are accurate. Melinda Meek, the Elections Director for Santa Cruz County in Arizona, said, “In the state of Arizona there are a lot of procedures and laws and guidelines that we’re required to follow that safeguard (a rigged election) from happening.”
All four of these counties in what were all considered potential “swing” states — Utah, Ohio, Florida and Arizona — require proof of identification before anyone can cast a ballot. All four counties also agreed on the fact that they do not believe it is possible for people to vote twice, based on the systems they have in place to prevent that from occurring.
“First of all, (voting) requires voter ID when people go to the elections, to make sure that they’re who they say they are,” Thompson said. “Before we process the ballot, the signature on the envelope has to be compared to the signature we have on file from their earlier voting registration, or from their driver’s license. And so that’s how we protect against people being who they say they are.”
One way voter fraud can occur is when votes are counted for individuals who are deceased. Trump has spoken to reporters about this during an interview with Fox News. “You have 1.8 million people who are dead, who are registered to vote, and some of them absolutely vote. Now, tell me how they do that,” Trump told Hannity.
Larrick said they have a deceased Ohioan report, and if someone is on that list, they would not be able to register to vote and are deleted from the system. Election representatives Thompson, Laramore and Meek also stated they have never had issues regarding a vote being counted for an individual who is deceased.
With every election there are always safeguards in place to help fight a potential rig. Voter fraud is a real thing, and it does happen. However, officials say it doesn’t happen on the grand scale that Trump alleged.
It is important to note, too, that it is up to the discretion of each county as to which type of ballot they will use. Some counties use a paper ballot, while other counties use an electronic one. However, these electronic voting machines are not connected to the internet, making it harder to hack these machines to sway results.
“Our election is very decentralized — there is not a national database of votes cast, or state or national vote counting procedures,” Kent Seamons, a BYU computer science professor, said. “Instead, all of our vote tabulations start at the local level. This makes it hard to launch a widespread attack that would change the outcome of a presidential election.”
Without any evidence of widespread voter fraud, Democrats and Republicans voiced their confidence in the current system before the election took place.
Anticipating a possible backlash if Trump lost, NBC created a user-friendly feature on their website showing voters exactly what happens when they vote.
Prior to the election, Trump’s concern was that a rigged election would hurt his chances, not Clinton’s. Now, he is the president-elect and is set to be inaugurated on January 20. So, was the election rigged?