Wednesday, 02 September 2020 12:10

OPINION: Rigged elections and the preservation of ideas

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The 2020 Presidential election is coming up and all estimates indicate that we may have the highest voter turnout in decades, if not a century. Because of the coronavirus, the number of mail-in ballots will almost certainly be record breaking. This election is already one of the most contentious. 


President Trump is already casting doubt on mail-in ballots and the election in general. He has claimed several times at this point that this election will be the most rigged in U.S. history. In Wisconsin last week, Trump said, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” There is a little something sinister here, which we’ll get to, but let’s talk about mail-in voting first.

Before 2020, five states already had automatic mail-in balloting. In these states, voters automatically receive mail-in ballots. They can fill these ballots out and mail them in or drop them off at an election site, or they can simply vote in person. Utah and Oregon, two states of radically different politics, predominantly vote by mail. Eighty percent of Utahans voted by mail in 2018 as did almost 100% of Oregonians. The other three states that already had automatic mail-in balloting— Washington, Hawaii, and Colorado — all voted predominantly by mail in 2018. Hawaii was the lowest at just under 60%. So, four out of five of these states vote almost entirely by mail. Additionally, four other states voted by mail more than half of the time. It’s clear that the people in these states like mail-in voting. But even so, Mr. Trump does not. 

Trump suggests that mail-in ballots will be dumped into neighborhoods, sent to dead people, and sent to dogs and cats. Trump worries that mail-in ballots will be manipulated. I do too, but not in the same way.

Far more worrisome is that during this year’s primaries, over 500,000 mail-in ballots were rejected. Think about that. Half a million people were disenfranchised. Unlike Mr. Trump says, fraudulent mail-in balloting isn’t easy or prevalent. There are more security features to mail-in ballots than there are for in-person voting. A signature is required for mail-in ballots. This is compared to your signature from the time that you initially registered to vote. And randomized bar codes are printed onto the ballots. The bar codes are used to track your ballot and to prevent fraud. In short, fraudulent mail-in ballots don’t exist. But voter disenfranchisement does. 

But if mail-in voter fraud doesn’t exist, why does Trump peddle the idea? It’s simple. He doesn’t want to acknowledge that the people might reject him. If Trump does lose, and the polls are looking that way, then he can always claim that he really didn’t lose. He can deny reality. He can claim that the “corrupt” Democrats or the “deep state” rigged the election. He can suggest that the “true” Americans did vote for him. He can claim that the election was stolen from him. But this idea of a stolen election isn’t just believed by Trump. Many people believe it. And they believe it for similar reasons.

When and if they lose an election, these people can claim, like Trump does, that the election wasn’t trustworthy. By doing this, they can rest easy at night knowing that it wasn’t their ideas that were rejected, but instead that it was a rigged, untrustworthy, and illegitimate election. They can always think that their ideas are truly more prevalent than is expressed in society and that they are really part of the majority.

It’s the same reason that they claim that America was “duped” by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but suddenly changed track and became smart when Trump was elected in 2016. This is a defense so that they will never have to reckon with the uncomfortable fact that a majority of people disagreed with them. In its most simple terms, it is a way to preserve their ideas in the face of reality. And at its most dark, they can claim that they, and only they, represent the Will of the People and that their opponents do not. 

Alex Auman is a Richmond Country native. He currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He writes about politics, ideas and current events.