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7 Rigged? Assessing Election Administration in Florida’s 2016 General Election Daniel A. Smith, Brian Amos, Carl Klarner, Daniel Maxwell, Thessalia Merivaki, and Tyler Richards On the hustings, one of Donald Trump’s sure-fire crowd-pleasers was his riff against the election system. “This whole election is being rigged,” he claimed while stumping in North Carolina. “The whole thing is one big fix. One big ugly lie,” he continued, but Trump thought his campaign would be able “to overcome this terrible deception.” The Republican nominee repeated his unsubstantiated claims on the airwaves. “I’m telling you,” he told Fox News host Sean Hannity in early August, that on “November 8th, we’d better be careful because that election is going to be rigged.” And, of course, he made a slew of fear-mongering proclamations on Twitter , stoking conspiracy theories that “Crooked Hillary” was “running for president in what looks like a rigged election” (Levine 2016). The underlying logic of Trump’s claims that the system was stacked against him became clear—if he was able to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, it might take the sting away if he lost the election. As one of his inner-circle advisors, Roger Stone, a Floridian and former Richard Nixon confidant, explained to Breitbart News prior to the election, Trump, who was trailing in the polls, needed to make incessant claims about voter fraud. “He needs to say,” Stone reasoned, “‘I am leading in Rigged? Assessing Election Administration in Florida’s 2016 General Election · 155 Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government’” (Golshan 2016). Trump followed suit. Well after he won the election, he continued sowing allegations of voter fraud. Why? Perhaps it was because even though he carried the Electoral College, sweeping Florida’s twenty-nine electors along the way, he lost the popular vote, taking the shine off his victory. Following his January inauguration, President Trump raised the specter of election fraud, saying three to five million illegal votes were cast, wrongly depriving him of winning the popular vote (Herron et al 2017; Burden et al. 2016). Then in May, the president made good on his threat to sign an executive order to create a presidential commission on election integrity to investigate illegal voting. But perhaps due to withering skepticism concerning his voting fraud claims, even from fellow conservatives, Trump revised his initial claims of massive voter fraud. He told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly (Borchers 2017): It doesn’t have to do with the vote. It has to do with the registration. And when you look at the registration, and you see dead people that have voted, when you see people that are registered in two states— and that voted in two states—when you see other things, when you see illegals, people that are not citizens and they are on the registration rolls. According to Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, the president was now more interested “in folks on rolls that have been deceased or have moved or are registered into [sic, in two] counties,” concluding, “This isn’t just about the 2016 election. This is about the integrity of our voting system” (Roth 2017). Perhaps surprisingly, given the checkered past of presidential elections in Florida—from African American voters being wrongly purged from the voter rolls in 2000 by Secretary of State Katherine Harris, to the failed attempt by current secretary of state Ken Detzner to remove “potential non-citizens” from the rolls in 2012 (Scher 2011; Hasen 2012; Wang 2012; Biggers and Smith 2016)—Trump focused little attention on voting problems in Florida. After the election, Trump recounted an apocryphal story supposedly told to him by his “friend” (and German citizen), “the 156 · D. A. Smith, B. Amos, C. Klarner, D. Maxwell, T. Merivaki, and T. Richards very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer,” about how “ahead of and behind [him in line] were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote” (Bieler and Boren 2017). Trump made few claims about vote-rigging in Florida. A cynic might suggest this is because the part-time Sunshine State resident won 49 percent of the vote, tallying more than 100,000 votes more than...


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