Florida Elections Officials Push Back Against Trump's Allegations Of "Rigging"

Oct 21, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is refusing to say he’ll honor the results of the November 8th election. Politicos and historians alike say the statement undermines integral American institutions like credible democracy and peaceful transitions of power. Here's a look at what Trump’s remarks mean for elections officials in the Sunshine State.

Voters wait to cast their ballots.
Credit Bryan Jones via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/bwjones/

Donald Trump is leveling serious allegations against the integrity of American elections. At the third and final presidential debate, Trump had this exchange with Fox News moderator Chris Wallace.

“The loser concedes to the winner, not saying that you’re necessarily the loser or the winner. But that the loser concedes to the winner, and that the country comes together, in part for the good of the country. Are you saying that you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?” Wallace asked.

“What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time," Trump said. "I’ll keep you in suspense, ok?”

Hillary Clinton supporters are quick to challenge Trump’s statement that the election is rigged, including Former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.

“What do the American people take away from this? What is their assessment of the state of democracy? I hope it’s not that we are slipping towards a different America than we’ve known,” Graham said.

Even prominent Republican lawmakers are calling Trump out, like U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

“There is no evidence behind any this, so this should not continue to be said. And do I believe people should have confidence? Yes. And do I believe they should vote? Absolutely. And let me tell you why. Let me add to this. This is a state that literally has millions of people who came here because they couldn’t vote in the nation of their birth. It would be a tragedy if they gave up their vote here as well,” Rubio said.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections and nationally recognized expert Ion Sancho says widespread voter fraud just doesn’t happen.

“Individuals have a greater chance being struck by lightning walking outside of a polling station than they do encountering individual voter fraud in the state and Florida and in the United States of America,” Sancho said.

"Concerns about voter fraud or rigging the election are completely unfounded."

And the data backs him up. According to Politifact, voter fraud is incredibly rare. One study out of Loyola University found 31 instances of fraud, out of a billion ballots cast. Sancho says the system certainly isn’t perfect. But the decentralized structure of presidential elections makes them very difficult to rig. That’s because the federal government doesn’t run these contests, local officials do, with trained staff, and the help of countless volunteers, all overseen by governors and secretaries of state, many of whom are Republican. Sancho says Florida's elections system is in the best shape it's ever been.

“Because we have paper ballots in the state of Florida, unconnected to the internet or wifi, we can verify every voter’s vote in this state, and concerns about voter fraud or rigging the election are completely unfounded,” Sancho said.

But the divisive nature of the presidential race is stirring up a lot of emotions. Elections officials are concerned about how voter anger and frustration might bubble over on Election Day. Earlier this summer, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner addressed a statewide conference of sheriffs.

“I’m talking about the potential for interruptions and disturbances during the election period. And that’s where I’m here to ask you to please, please help us, as you always have, in this election. It is going to be different,” he said.

But that concern is softened some in a written statement issued by his office this week.

“Security during elections and encouraging 100% voter participation in Florida is one of my top priorities. The Department of State takes the issue of elections fraud very seriously and we diligently work with independent Supervisors of Elections to protect the rights of voters and ensure voter rolls are accurate. We have many safeguards in place and voters should feel confident that their votes will be counted”. - Secretary of State Ken Detzner

Back in Leon County, Ion Sancho isn’t concerned. But he says each polling place is staffed with a deputy, just in case something comes up.

“If there is any potential problem, we will respond immediately and quickly. And I don’t anticipate any problems on Election Day,” Sancho said.

Nonetheless, Trump’s allegations of fraud are striking a chord with voters, at a time when public faith in American institutions is at historically low levels. According to the Pew Research Center, trust in the federal government is the lowest it’s been since 1958.