Politicians are playing a dangerous game with the US election. President Donald Trump’s potential illness now that he has contracted the novel coronavirus will only increase the chance of catastrophe. We should all be praying that the president recovers fully — not only out of compassion; it will be good for our democracy.
But we also need elected officials, regardless of party, to stand up and ensure November’s election is secure and that voters in America have faith in the results. Democrats and Republicans have been playing this game for years: Democrats accuse Republicans of voter suppression and Republicans accuse Democrats of lax voter security. There is always a kernel of truth in both complaints but now that game has been taken to a new level.
Trump has repeatedly claimed — beginning after he lost the national popular vote in 2016 — that Democrats are trying to steal the election via fraud. He continued that assault on democracy during the first presidential debate. Voter fraud is when a ballot is cast that doesn’t represent an actual, eligible voter, or it is cast by someone other than the voter it is said to represent. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and certainly no evidence of a vast conspiracy to steal the election.
There is evidence, however, of isolated fraud (cases have been prosecuted), and isolated errors in ballot printing, ballot counting, and many incidents where ballots are being sent in the mail to people who no longer live at the address and even people who are deceased. Those incidents cannot be swept under the rug, they must be addressed directly with real solutions.
No-one is wrong to highlight the potential for abuse of the election system and to demand election officials tighten election security. That type of constructive criticism will only improve Americans’ confidence in the outcome of the election. On the other hand, Trump’s words are a concrete threat to democracy if voters believe them. /Denver, October 2