Trump clearly examined the latest polls and realized he is, at the moment, losing the election. For Trump, further eroding the nation’s trust in its democratic institutions is a small price to avoid appearing to lose fair and square. But his timing is notable for another reason: The nation just got more evidence that, if any candidate will benefit from a “rigged” system this year, it will be Trump. Amid all the bogus, self-serving claims of election-stealing, here’s what this evidence shows: Over the past decade, the Republican Party has attempted to curb access to the ballot box across the country, in some cases illegally, in an effort to suppress poor and minority voters, who tend to vote for Democrats — and who appear poised to vote against Trump en masse.
Texas’s legislature enacted a highly restrictive voter identification law that a federal appeals court just found illegally discriminates against minorities. Relative to other states’, Texas’s requirements are very tough on the poor. The result is “a stark, racial disparity.” The voters least likely to be able to comply tend to be African American and Latino. Backers of the law even acknowledged that there would be a racially disproportionate effect.
Courts recently announced similar findings in Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota and Wisconsin. North Carolina’s law was particularly egregious, targeting African Americans “with almost surgical precision,” according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. “Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices,” the court found. “Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.”
These laws purport to combat voter fraud. In fact, voter impersonation is a practically nonexistent crime. Judges found that Texas’s law, SB 14, passed even though lawmakers knew “that in-person voting, the only concern addressed by SB 14, yielded only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade leading up to SB 14’s passage.”
The real purpose of laws such as Texas’s is to help Republicans win. Republicans have even admitted as much. Mike Turzai, a leading GOP lawmaker in Pennsylvania, bragged in 2012: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done.”
Trump is priming the country for a dangerous explosion. “We should have a revolution in this country!” he bellowed on Twitter on election night in 2012, when Romney lost. “This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!” he wrote. Imagine how much worse it might be if Trump, on live national television on Nov. 8, declined to offer a concession speech and instead instructed his followers to rise up against a “rigged” result.
Meanwhile, those who have real reasons to complain that public officials have tried to rig the process against them have responded in a more constructive way: asking courts, the nation’s designated arbiters, to identify and right the injustice. This process takes time, and it will not remove every recently passed voter-ID law in every state. But it is legitimate, it is fact-based, its results are enduring, and it respects rather than degrades the country’s commitment to order and the rule of law — without which injustice of all kinds would flourish.