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One more time, the election won't be rigged

Jack Lessenberry

Last Sunday, a warm and witty elderly gentleman I knew named Lloyd Strausz was in the process of planning his 99th birthday party, and decided to take a nap.

Unfortunately, he never woke up. Later, at the Shiva celebration of his life in his daughter’s home, I said I thought it was too bad that Lloyd, who had cast his first presidential vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt, had missed one final election.

But he did vote, I was told. He had sent in his absentee ballot days before. He is now that stuff of legends – an actual dead voter, though in this case, a legitimate one.

There have been jokes for years, of course, about corrupt officials in Chicago who cast votes FOR the dead in the city cemeteries, all of whom cast straight Democratic ballots.

There are still those who mutter that Chicago’s first Mayor Daley stole Illinois on behalf of John F. Kennedy in 1960. Yet even if Kennedy had lost Illinois, he still would have won that election. Vote fraud in this country is actually very scarce, and is now less likely than ever.

But there are those, primarily supporters of Donald Trump, who are convinced the election is going to be stolen for Hillary Clinton. Today’s New York Times features interviews with a number of them, including one 25-year-old who vows that Clinton will have to be gotten out of office “by any means necessary.”

Half-educated men in their early twenties with guns have done some devastating things to this country. Think John and Robert Kennedy, John Lennon, and Ronald Reagan. Violence has never needed any encouragement. Yet in this campaign, the Republican nominee has encouraged speculation that the election might be rigged. Worse, he has refused to say whether he will accept the results as legitimate if he loses.

Well, the fact is that there is no election fraud to speak of, especially not in Michigan. Justin Roebuck is Ottawa County clerk, the most Republican county in the state. Roebuck, himself a Republican, told the Detroit News that it was “irresponsible for people to make accusations when they don’t understand the process,” because that ultimately undermines confidence in the system. I have seen a rigged election, by the way.

I spent almost a month in the Philippines in the 1980s looking at the corrupt government of Ferdinand Marcos. Soon afterwards, he called a snap election in response to American pressure, and blatantly rigged the result once it was clear he was losing.  The national outrage that followed sparked the People Power revolution that drove him out.

But in this country, rigging an election couldn’t happen. The dreaded “media elites” and “silk-stocking liberals” of conservative folklore don’t think like that, and wouldn’t know how.

Think about this: Sixteen years ago, Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote, but narrowly lost to George W. Bush when the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount. Losing Florida left Gore just three electoral votes short.

What if the elites had offered $20 million dollars each to three Republican electors to betray their party and cast their votes for Gore? That might make a good movie.

But nobody even dreamed of that. We may have dirty campaigns, but they are followed by clean elections. The best thing you can do is just vote. 

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.