Trump's Continued Claims Of Fraud Without Evidence Undermine Legitimacy Of Elections

Nov 13, 2018
Originally published on November 14, 2018 8:03 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And today a pro-Trump super PAC called Great America Alliance released this ad attacking Broward County election supervisor Brenda Snipes.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As narrator) Legal voters in Florida are outraged, and Brenda Snipes must be removed. When we can't trust our elections, we don't have a democracy.

CHANG: This ad is one example of the rhetoric that's now being used in this recount fight. There are explicit doubts about the integrity of the American democratic process, as President Trump keeps making unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud.

NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now from Fort Myers, Fla., to talk more about all of this. Hey, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: So as we've reported, there have been irregularities in how the votes have been counted. But still, there's been no evidence of any fraud. President Trump keeps railing against fraud. Why?

LIASSON: Well, it's one thing to say that your opponent is a sore loser and that he just can't accept that he lost the election. But it's another thing to make everything part of the culture war, to delegitimize any election where your opponent might win.

And Donald Trump is continuing to say that the ballots in Florida have been, quote, "massively infected." He said an honest vote count is no longer possible. He suggested stopping the election, not counting military ballots.

And altogether, this undermines Americans' faith in the most basic democratic institution there is. And that is the legitimacy of the ballot in free and fair elections.

CHANG: I mean, the way President Trump is talking now sounds a lot like the way he was talking before the 2016 election, when he was also making allegations about rampant voter fraud.

LIASSON: Right. He says if he lost, he wouldn't accept the results 'cause the election would have been rigged. Then after he won, he said he would have won the popular vote if not for millions of illegal aliens voting. And he set up an electoral fraud commission to hunt for those illegal votes. And of course, the commission disbanded without finding any.

But it's one thing for Donald Trump to be an outlier and push conspiracy theories. It's another thing for Republicans to join him. And we have seen Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Cory Gardner, the head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, join him.

However, Ron DeSantis, who's also in a recount in Florida in the governor's race, did not. And Martha McSally in Arizona, where Donald Trump has called for a new election, has actually conceded in a wonderful video with her dog.

CHANG: With her dog. (Laughter).

LIASSON: With her dog. So there are plenty of people who still believe in the integrity of elections and are not jumping on the Trump train. But a lot of Republicans are.

CHANG: OK, now, yesterday a judge in Broward County, Jack Tuter, spoke out about how heated things have become. Tell us what his remarks were.

LIASSON: Well, Jack Tuter told both sides to tamp down the rhetoric. He says if you have evidence of voter fraud, please report it to your local law enforcement officers. Of course, that hasn't happened.

Then he says, but everything lawyers are saying out there in front of the elections office is being beamed all over the country. We need to be careful of what we say. And then he concluded by saying, words mean things these days.

CHANG: Words matter. They reverberate.

LIASSON: Words matter. They reverberate. And if Donald Trump is a walking, talking stress test for democratic institutions, this election has been a test of how resilient democratic institutions will be, like the judiciary. And there is a judge doing his job trying to play by the rules. Voters have just decided they want a check and balance on Donald Trump. They weren't happy with complete Republican control of government.

So I would say, despite all of the rhetoric that seems to be designed to undermine faith in democratic institutions, those institutions are holding up pretty well. And I have no doubt that whatever the final vote count is in Florida, the Democrats, even though they're going to contest every ballot vigorously, will accept the results if they lose. It's not clear whether Donald Trump would have done that in 2016 or whether he will do that in the future.

CHANG: That's NPR's Mara Liasson at member station WGCU in Fort Myers, Fla. Thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.