- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2016

Donald Trump warned Monday of “large-scale voter fraud” on Nov. 8, heaping doubts about legitimacy on an already unsettled electorate — though Democrats and Republicans alike said they don’t see evidence of rigging in the presidential contest.

Mr. Trump, who is trailing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in key states ahead of Election Day, said he already suspects problems at “many polling places” and wonders why other party leaders aren’t as worried as he is.

“Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on?” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “So naive!”

He offered no proof, though.

Jon Husted, the Ohio secretary of state, called Mr. Trump’s warnings irresponsible. Ohio is a critical swing state that was ground zero for claims of election fraud by some Democrats in 2004.

“The idea of widespread voter fraud would require some systemic problem in our system. And if there is a systemic problem, please identify it,” Mr. Husted, a Republican, said on CNN. “Don’t just make an allegation on Twitter. Tell me. Tell secretaries of states around the country what the problem is so that we can fix it.”

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump could have election ‘stolen’ from him, four in 10 voters say: poll

Worries have grown as the Obama administration said Russian operatives are attempting to influence the election and that computer hackers have tried to breach state and local systems.

Conservatives, meanwhile, warn of old-style shenanigans.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a watchdog group, announced this month that it had discovered more than 1,000 noncitizens who are registered to vote in eight Virginia counties and accused the head of the State Board of Elections of trying to cover up the problem.

Last week, Project Veritas, the guerrilla activist group run by James O’Keefe, released an undercover tape of Alan Schulkin, a Democrat and Manhattan Board of Elections commissioner, airing his frustrations with cases of voter fraud in New York City.

“Certain neighborhoods in particular, they bus people around to vote,” Mr. Schulkin said on the tape. “They put them in a bus and go poll site to poll site.”

Questions over voter fraud have fed an already antsy electorate, egged on by Mr. Trump, who has said the system is rigged against him and the media are part of the scheme.

The Center for Public Integrity provided Mr. Trump with more fodder Monday by releasing a study that showed 96 percent of the $400,000 in donations that came from journalists this presidential campaign season went toward Mrs. Clinton.

His campaign, meanwhile, has been pressed to say whether it would accept the outcome of the election — something his vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, affirmed this week and his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, reiterated Monday.

“Absent evidence of wrongdoing, of irregularities and voter fraud, of course we’ll accept it,” Mrs. Conway said.

The White House said Monday that President Obama isn’t worried about the election being rigged. “There’s never been evidence to substantiate” widespread voter fraud, press secretary Josh Earnest said.

“So the president is very confident in the ability and honesty of election officials in both parties in states all across the country to ensure that this upcoming national election is conducted freely and fairly,” he said.

Democratic leaders in Congress, meanwhile, said even raising the question is a mistake and insisted that the election process is transparent.

“Our system is designed to maintain faith in the process. It is essential that everyone acknowledges that the process is fair, even if all parties don’t like the result of a given election,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement in response to Mr. Trump.

They demanded that Republican leaders in Congress rebuke their party’s presidential nominee and issue a bipartisan call to accept the election results. They said Democrats accepted the result of the 2000 election, in which Republican candidate George W. Bush prevailed after a bitter legal fight over recounts in Florida that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
How much voter fraud goes on is anyone’s guess.

Mr. Husted, the Ohio secretary of state, said fraud does happen but is rare. He insisted that most people who attempt it are caught and their votes aren’t counted.

Mark Braden, a partner at Baker & Hostetler LLP who served as chief counsel for the Republican National Committee from 1979 to 1989, said voter fraud certainly occurs but it would be impossible to coordinate a national campaign given that votes are tallied at the local level.

“The notion of a national conspiracy is right there with the black helicopters,” Mr. Braden said. “You couldn’t do it.”

One tool that Republicans have pushed is stricter voter identification. Fourteen states will have new laws this year that, among other things, include stricter photo ID requirements and tighter voter registration deadlines, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Some of those laws have run into problems with federal courts, which said they hurt the poor and minorities who may not have identification.

The Justice Department has led the way in those fights, even refusing to defend the federal Election Assistance Commission after it approved three states’ requests for checking citizenship of those registering to vote.

Justice Department lawyers said that burden was too heavy for new voters.

Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for True the Vote, which fights voter fraud, said assurances about rarity are hollow because the Obama administration and liberal activists won’t even try to figure out the scope of the problem.

“For someone to say it is not a problem, they are doing so without any data in their hands,” Mr. Churchwell said. “Opponents of voter ID have no credibility to doubt the scope of election crimes committed around the nation when their activism prevents officials from detecting and deterring the same.”

David Sherfinski and Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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