During the third and final presidential debate, Republican nominee Donald Trump reiterated his claim that the presidential election was being rigged against him and that he would keep the American people “in suspense” as to whether he will accept the election results as legitimate. This starkly contrasts the manner in which both his running mate, vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), and Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have publicly rejected such doubts of the electoral system.
Trump has followed up his claim with various tweets, claiming the election is “absolutely rigged by the dishonest and distorted” media at various polling places in favor of his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whom he calls “Crooked Hillary.” What is missing from these claims, however are existing policies that do affect voting outcomes in many elections, from the most local ones to those of national importance.
Issues that affect votes for opposing parties, like vote- flipping and gerrymandering, are prevalent in the American electoral system and have been ongoing for quite some time. Yet even in light of the legal entrenchment of these practices, abstaining from voting only perpetuates disillusionment while voters should be encouraged to vote no matter the rhetoric at hand.
Vote-flipping occurs when voters press on an electronic voting screen to cast their vote for one candidate, but their vote gets counted to another instead. This practice has been reported in various states like North Carolina, Nevada and Texas that use voting machines with touchscreens that often rely on outdated technology. There is an increasing fear that such machines could be biased against a specific candidate, yet such situations have recently been debunked in states like Texas and North Carolina, where the reports of flipping actually emerged from human error instead of a problem in the software.
While vote-flipping is not an inherent problem for this election, gerrymandering — the process of manipulating district boundaries to gain a political advantage — has long been an issue that has plagued the electoral system. Gerrymandering has been used by political leaders and lawmakers since the 19th century, but it generally does not lead to a rigged election.
Gerrymandering has often been attributed to the Republican Party. Redrawing congressional districts in key states in 2010 is arguably the reason many Republican representatives will win re-election this year and maintain a Republican-controlled House. Democratic candidates won 1.4 million more votes than Republicans in the House 2012 elections, yet the GOP ended up with a 234-201 majority in the chamber.
Yet given the fact that gerrymandering has been legal for such a long period of time, its existence is hardly grounds for calling the presidential election rigged. Even more importantly, the issues with the electoral system should not be grounds at all for staying home Nov. 8 given that a victory for either candidate is hardly guaranteed.
Several publications including The New York Times and data hubs like FiveThirtyEight predict a Clinton victory north of 80 percent, yet a current 15 percent of undecided voters leaves huge potential for a last-minute swing in the election result. Election guru Nate Silver, who called 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 general election and all 50 in 2012, is predicting a Clinton win, yet he has been wrong in the past, especially when predicting a surmountable Trump collapse earlier this year in February.
Any claim that the election is being rigged falls under the weight of evidence and this country’s long history with the democratic process. These claims should not deter voters from reaching voting stations on Nov. 8. The power of the ballot should never be taken for granted, and, in any case, each vote will do its part to shape the outcome of this election.
Martha Petrocheilos is a student at the Law Center. MILLENNIAL’S CORNER appears every other Tuesday.
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