Ahead of the fall campaign season, which unofficially kicks off on Labor Day, we asked our Facebook audience what their biggest concerns are for Election Day: Nov. 8.
Before we continue, let’s get one thing out of the way: Surprise! There’s really not a lot of love out there for the leading presidential candidates. Stephen Andric speaks for a lot of our audience: “Biggest concern? Having to vote for the lesser of evils.” A new Monmouth University poll confirms that Andric and those who share his sentiments aren’t alone: Some 35 percent of voters don’t have a favorable view of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. We’re making history here; both Clinton and Trump rank right down toward the bottom on Gallup’s favorability ratings on presidential candidates, which go all the way back to 1956.
The most popular comment comes from Alison Wimmer, who says she is worried about election fraud. “Voter fraud is statistically insignificant, but election fraud — including voter suppression — is alive and well.”
While Trump says that without voter identification laws, fraud will be so rampant that voters will head to the polls “15 times” for Clinton, history and statistics are on Wimmer’s side. Voter fraud is extremely rare; so rare that, according to journalists who have done the analysis, UFO sightings are more common than voter fraud. So is getting struck by lightning.
All of this makes sense. Voter fraud is essentially trying to work around the “one person, one vote” principle by, for example, impersonating someone else or using a fake ID to vote twice. Who would really want to risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine (that’s the punishment for voter fraud in connection with a federal election; state penalties can also apply) to stuff the ballot box?
What is far more likely is “that people who want to vote can’t,” as Pat White Whitney writes. Like many others, Whitney is troubled about the tactics being used to disenfranchise people. Over the past decade Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted a number of laws in the name of fighting a virtually nonexistent problem.
Fifteen states have new voting restrictions this November — such as strict photo-ID requirements and early voting cutbacks — but there are a number of lawsuits in progress related to these restrictions. This summer, courts in North Carolina, North Dakota, Kansas, Texas and Wisconsin ruled laws requiring photo identification or proof of citizenship to vote. The volume of lawsuits has Marcel Prather concerned that there will be “voter confusion caused by ongoing courtroom battles,” which he views as a type of “indirect voter suppression.”
The practice of voter purging — removing voters from registration lists in order to update state registration rolls — has Lucy Grey wondering if she will “show up at polls and find I’ve been purged from the voter database.” Emma WuPeel is distressed about voters in her home state “being purged from Ohio’s voter rolls” because they haven’t voted since 2008. Officials in Ohio have removed tens of thousands of voters from their list for that reason.
Last week, Rolling Stone reported on the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which, writer Greg Palast reports, targets voters who might be registered in more than one state.
The magazine acquired and analyzed a portion of the list and names of 1 million targeted voters. Rolling Stone concluded, “The Crosscheck list disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters — with some of the biggest possible purges underway in Ohio and North Carolina, two crucial swing states with tight Senate races.” The Nation’s Ari Berman characterized Florida’s voter purge ahead of the 2000 vote as “the most consequential — and least discussed — aspect of the Florida election.” It really was not all about hanging chads and butterfly ballots in Bush v. Gore. A number of readers expressed concern that we could see a repeat of that fiasco as well.
Another recurring worry: the effects of gerrymandering — drawing political boundaries to give one party an advantage over the opposition. Phyllis J. Doak writes that “the GOP has strategically gerrymandered districts across the nation to swing votes in their favor.”
This is a topic that Dave Daley, author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, recently covered on our site. In his post, Daley explains the effectiveness of the GOP’s electoral strategy this decade:
Republicans used their big win in 2010 to radically gerrymander the House of Representatives and state legislatures nationwide during the decennial redistricting, using dark money and cutting-edge mapmaking technology to create a majority of districts that were whiter and more conservative, even as America as a whole becomes less white and less conservative.
Then these gerrymandered legislatures — unearned supermajorities in states like North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, for example, where Republicans drew such effective and unbeatable lines that they took veto-proof control of chambers despite winning fewer overall votes — pushed for new laws designed to make it even harder for minorities to vote and, ultimately, for Democrats to win.
Trump’s “Election Observers”
Trump’s call for his supporters to “go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times,” on Election Day has some, like Cheryl Crawford, worried about “possible violence at the polls” and others, like Bonnie Odiorne, wondering if there will be Trump supporters out “heckling voters — especially Muslims, African-Americans and possibly undocumented because of ethnicity.” Trump has gone so far as to encourage people to sign up as election observers on his website to help him “Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!”
Another common concern is low voter turnout. John Gretz worries that “the gap between the candidates” (in terms of recent polls tracking Clinton versus Trump) could lead to reduced voter turnout, which also means “the down-ballot races and referenda will suffer,” he writes. Phyllis Meyer fears the opposite: “Standing in line for hours only to have the polls close before I can vote! Like last election!”
David Schauer is hoping we will not see a repeat of the Brexit vote in Great Britain, where people think someone or something can’t win and cast “a ‘protest’ vote that changes the outcome.”
And Scott Turner hopes that people don’t think that they’ve “done their duty simply by voting on Election Day.” He adds, “Sure, vote, but recognize that we likely won’t get the changes we want and need by ballot and the establishment Democratic and Republican parties. Organize, locally and wider.”
A good start for organizers could be making voting a whole lot easier in America and fixing our campaign finance system for the next election season.