Today’s blog originally appeared in the Hill.
October 19, 2016, 10:48 am
Trump is right: The election is rigged — but in his favor
By David A. Schultz, contributor
Donald Trump is right that the election is rigged, but he’s right for all the wrong reasons. It’s rigged by race, class, and gender in ways that favor individuals such as Trump.
Doug Chapin and Lawrence R. Jacobs recently argued correctly in a Contributors piece in The Hill that election administration is fair and for the most part its administrators are competent and impartial. The days are gone when Lyndon Johnson won his 1948 Texas state election by having the dead vote for him in alphabetical order. This is not where elections are rigged now.
If elections can be rigged, either party can do it. The secretary of state (or commonwealth) is the chief election officer in each state and they would have the ability to manipulate the election system to the benefit of their favored candidate.
Of the 50 states, 28 are Republican. Among the 11 swing states that are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, only three, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, are controlled by Democrats.
Republicans control nearly two-thirds of the secretaries of state in the critical swing states and presumably would not have an incentive to rig the election in favor of Clinton.
Look at who votes, runs for office, and give political contributions. All skew toward older affluent white males — a profile not much different from Trump. The major interest groups and political action committees active in campaigns tend to be composed of these types of people, supporting interests more favorable to them than the poor or people of color.
Back in the 1960s political scientist E.E. Schattschneider described a bias in the American political process that favors a democracy for only a subset of the entire population, that observation remains largely if not more firmly true today.
People of color are less likely to register or actually vote than Caucasians. Historically, lynchings and racially discriminatory laws such as poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather laws prevented African-Americans from voting.
The 1965 Voting Rights Act banned these practices and increased voter turnout among all people of color, but the Supreme Court in 2013 gutted the VRA in Holder v. Shelby County, embolden almost immediately a new round of laws to suppress voting that may impact the 2016 elections.
A new disenfranchisement is afoot. False claims of voter fraud have led to numerous laws impacting the voting rights of the poor, students, and people of color. Many of these are groups whom if they vote it will not be for Trump. Cutting back on early voting or closing or moving voting locations produces longer lines to vote.
Seldom are these polls closed in neighborhoods with poor people or people of color. There are stories of purged voter lists, complex rules to register, or in the case of voter id laws, costs associated with securing the documents required to obtain the ids necessary to vote. They are the new poll tax.
According to the Sentencing Project, more than six million individuals cannot vote because of felon disenfranchisement laws. Some of these bans are for life. These laws disproportionately impact racial minorities with one in thirteen African-American adults unable to vote due to these laws. In Florida and Virginia, two critical presidential swing states, more than 20% of African-American adults cannot vote because of these laws.
Only a very small percent of the population expends money for political purposes. The Sunlight Foundation documents that the richest 0.01 percent of the population accounted for 42% of all the 2012 political contributions. The 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision has pumped more corporate money into elections.
The cost of running for office all but excludes the poor and middle class as candidates, and because women are still confront glass ceilings in business, many face additional difficulties compared to men like Trump in locating donors and money to run for office. None of this includes the sexist double standards women face as candidates, or the reality that there is still a percentage of the population which will not vote for any female candidate.
In many states the poor cannot take time off from work to attend a caucus or vote in a primary or general election because it means forgoing a pay check. Restrictive ballot access laws make it difficult for third party or independent candidates to run for office.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has adopted restrictive laws regarding who can participate such that no third party candidate will probably ever again be invited unless he or she is as rich as Ross Perot was in 1992 when he was able to buy his way in as a serious contender.
What little money is left in the nearly bankrupt and broken presidential public financing system goes to a third party too late to help it in the present election. But for the rest of the congressional and most state and local races, there is no public financing, creating a wealth primary that excludes all but a few from even running for office.
It is easy from the position of being white, male, and affluent to say that the American election system is fair and legitimate. The reality is that for millions it is not. It is a system that is actually rigged in favor of individuals such as Donald Trump who has benefitted from a political and economic system that more likely favors people like him.