Early Voting in the US Brings Alarming Reports of Irregularities, Accusatory Trump Tweets

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A horrifying theme throughout this entire election season has been seeing the values and goals of the GOP that have long been dog-whistled and hinted at with coded language — anti-Muslim sentiment, xenophobia, unapologetic white nationalism, virulent misogyny — has been made excruciatingly explicit by Trump and his campaign. Right now, as the election approaches, one avenue in which this has become very clear is that of voter suppression. The GOP has long fought to try to keep people that it thinks won’t vote Republican away from the polls; this has often meant restricting the voting rights of people of color, especially Black voters, and poor voters. It’s for this reason that we’ve seen an uptick in voter ID laws, which as North Carolina’s lawsuit regarding them showed, are intended to place as many obstacles as possible between voters of color and the voting booth — a federal appeals court ruled that the state’s voter ID law should be struck down because it was “passed with racially discriminatory intent.” Now, as the election date creeps closer, we’re seeing Trump’s camp reproduce in crude strokes the same strategy the GOP has used for years — accuse Democrats and Dem voters of voter fraud while quietly trying to keep them away from the polls by any means necessary.

In a piece that looks at Trump’s camp as the clock counts down, Bloomberg got an incredible quote from a campaign staffer in yet another moment where it’s unclear whether the Trump campaign doesn’t realize that it’s doing something objectionable or illegal, or whether it knows and just doesn’t care who finds out.

Instead of expanding the electorate, [campaign chairman Steve] Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans.

It’s unclear, ultimately, whether the “senior official” quoted knows what voter suppression is; while it would be naive to think that the Trump campaign does not have a genuine interest in real voter suppression, the tactics the campaign goes on to describe aren’t actually meant to stop people from voting, just convince them not to vote for Clinton. Essentially, the campaign is using targeted Facebook ads and more general messaging to try to reach specific demographics — Bernie Sanders supporters, young liberal women, and Black voters — to suggest that Clinton doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Slate has rounded up the basic points they’re trying to hit:

+ “Trump’s invocation at the debate of Clinton’s WikiLeaks e-mails and support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to turn off Sanders supporters.”

+ “The parade of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed or threatened by Hillary is meant to undermine her appeal to young women.”

+ And some black Americans will see a Facebook post about Clinton discussing “superpredators” in 1996. (Clinton used the term in the context of a speech praising the racially controversial 1994 crime bill but did not use it to describe black citizens in particular.)

Against this backdrop, we’re seeing the first few days of early voting in a number of states, and the first few reports of real voting issues. NBC has been tracking voting problems across the US, and reports that “hundreds of voters” have been removed from rolls in North Carolina, where state law allows “for private citizens to formally challenge a voter’s eligibility ahead of an election.” Many of the voters removed from rolls are in Cumberland County, an area with a statistically higher number of Black and African-American voters than the rest of North Carolina (35% compared to 21.5%).

There doesn’t seem to be much concern about North Carolina’s disenfranchised voters from Trump’s camp, which makes sense; Trump did, however, tweet this morning suggesting that “vote flipping” is occurring in Texas — when a voting machine registers a vote for a candidate other than the one the voter selected. This is kind of a confusing allegation for Trump to make given that, as ThinkProgress points out, Texas is one of the states where the election process is controlled by Republicans, so he would be claiming that his own party is rigging the election.

Election officials told the Dallas Morning News that even if vote flipping did occur, it would be a machine error and would be something they could deal with, and wouldn’t actually reverse people’s votes. “We can absolutely verify and check that in front of the voter,” [Collin County elections official Bruce Sherbet] added. “If there were a problem with a machine, it would immediately be taken out of service.” NPR explains further why “some machines are flipping votes but that doesn’t mean they’re rigged.”

There are problems with voting so far in Texas, however — just not the ones that Trump is claiming. NBC reports that so far, there have been a number of problems with poll workers misunderstanding Texas’s voting laws and telling voters that they need photo ID when they don’t (in Texas, can vote without ID if you sign an affidavit of your identity), turning at least one voter away. Previous to the beginning of early voting, a court “found that the state used misleading language in describing the new rules …it found an earlier public education campaign about the ID law to be ‘woefully inadequate.'”

These stories of voting irregularities aren’t likely to be the last ones we hear of; and as Trump likely continues to spiral, we’ll probably continue to see increasingly baseless accusations of voter fraud and other alleged attempts to “rig” the election. Hopefully the many actual risks to the exercise of voting rights can be mitigated enough that Trump’s thoughts on elections become at least just a matter of cultural significance, not headline news.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1090 articles for us.

14 Comments

    • Wow. So, you’ve hated the GOP all the way back to when the vast majority of blacks in the U.S. were Republican? Hey, if you had been born just a few decades earlier, you would have had the chance to fight the GOP when they pushed for women’s suffrage, as well. You may want to take a closer look at history.

  1. I’m very proud to serve and protect my country in the navy, but I’ve got to be honest, the idea of this man being my commander in chief terrifies me beyond belief.

  2. I was much happier before this election when I thought the racist, sexist, homophobic crazy extremists were just 20% of the population. Now I know they’re nearly half. I think that’s what has unsettled me the most.

  3. The fact checker politicians says it is “mostly true” that Hillary called black youth “superpredators”. Worse, she invented and pushed the legislation which overwhelmingly targets blacks. and she dog whistled the term to get white votes. just like she didn’t support lgbt+ legislation – until a movement existed to demand it, and masses of people called her out. I don’t like trump obviously, but hillary ain’t gr8. She’s just the least-bad option. Altho in terms of bombing foreign countries she could be just as bad as any of the prior presidents – which is pretty bad. here’s the fact checker info ==> http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/aug/28/reince-priebus/did-hillary-clinton-call-african-american-youth-su/

      • Let me clarify here… did Hillary “invent and push” that? No. Did she support something she was asked to? Yes. Should she have? No. It was fucked up.

        Have you found a perfect candidate? Because if you have I’ll ask where you get your rose-tinted glasses checked.

        And with LGBT issues you’re saying Hillary waited for a movement to back it. Hmm. You know that almost sounds like a politician. Kinda like how Sanders did the same fucking thing.

        Right now we need to keep the white supremacist out of the office. Let’s constructively criticize Hillary after the election, hm?

      • She is a better candidate than Trump, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to criticize her. And “she had to be racist to support her husband” explanation is all kinds of fucked up. Really? She has so little independence and defers to her husband so much that she would choose to say that over saying nothing? The notion that we all should shut up about her faults because that’s the only way to get her elected is really messed up. And as voters, we have more influence over her during the campaign (see her left shift post-Bernie) when she needs support than once she is elected.

        • Thank you! It turns my stomach that we’re stuck with these two as options. One who’s just plain hateful and so far out of touch with reality it’s scary. A real sociopath.

          And the “lesser of two evils” who plays everything so safe and flip flops on so many things it’s hard to tell what she will actually do in office. And the statement she released yesterday regarding Standing Rock is so telling. Is it really so hard to say that you support clean water for everybody or to acknowledge the human rights being violated by a militarized police force against peaceful protestors??

          Yell at me all you want I will not made to feel guilty for not fully supporting her when she chooses to stay neutral.

          • Has anyone yelled at you? And in what ways has she flip-flopped? She’s had a fairly consistent record and evolves over time and changes her positions sometimes, like any mature, normal adult.

            She’s a damn good candidate and hardly the lesser of two evils. She’s also not perfect nor is she a Messiah figure. If you want better of her, then stay involved in the process, vote in progressives on the state and federal level, and keep showing her there is the political will for her to accomplish the things we want.

            She’s a politician. No one ever said they were perfect. Jill Stein has been racist, transphobic, opposes vaccines, and allowed for conspiracy theories. Gary Johnson… well, we won’t go there. And Bernie shut down BLM protestors at first. It took him a while to apologize and listen. He didn’t support gay marriage until the last ten years (it’s a lie that he did as far back as the 80s) and he’s got a history of losing his temper and has made sexist remarks.

            No one is personally or positionally perfect. All you can do is be involved and strive for perfection as a united population.

        • Did anyone say you shouldn’t be allowed to criticize her? I just said to do so constructively. If that automatically disqualifies all criticism I think it’s telling. 😛

          When she was First Lady she supported her husband. That’s not atypical of First Wives in the history of the nation. Even Eleanor criticized her husband most often in private. I believe I also called it “fucked up” that she went along with it and said those things.

          No one said you should, “shut up about her faults”, but if you can’t engage her faults in a mature, constructive way I think that is what’s fucked up.

          She didn’t shift left post-Bernie either. Their senate voting records are identical within 6%. The ideas that she’s not a progressive or that Bernie has always been this ideal hero of the people are patently false.

          Is her response to the pipeline impotent? Yes it is. So was Obama’s.

          My point is that she isn’t president yet and there’s a white supremacist very close to the White House. So why don’t we rally around the progressive and after she wins, GET or STAY involved and hold her accountable and push her towards the correct decisions?

  4. I’d like to know if Trump has realized what a huge mistake he made calling her a nasty woman at the last debate yet. I doubt it, since I doubt he realizes any of his mistakes. I feel that becoming a meme might honestly flip/have flipped some people. (Which is a bit terrifying.) And I am in the middle of making a ‘nasty women vote’ t-shirt right now.

  5. Our system in the UK of putting a cross in a box may seem antiquated, but by and large it works. Everyone who is registered gets a card against which their identity on the register of electors is checked, so no-one can vote twice. The cases of voting fraud have been few and far between, and usually isolated to just a few polling stations within certain constituencies.

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