We hear Donald Trump’s constant whining, now that he has shot himself in the foot about 50 times, that the election is “rigged.” He doesn’t actually say how it is rigged—just assumes that people will think that the Democrats have found a way to get more voters registered and votes submitted than actual Democrats. He doesn’t explain how that could possibly happen in a system that is designed in a bi-partisan way with checks and balances from both sides. He just serves up that accusation and leaves it to simmer, so that people are left enraged, frightened, disenchanted and/or confused about the facts.
I spent a little bit of time wondering about our election and exactly how fair it is. While I have dismissed whatever the Donald had in mind as pure fiction, I have concluded that, in fact, the election is rigged if we are looking for an election that best represents one vote per person in the U.S. Here’s how:
Election Rigging Methods & Phenomena:
- Partisan Redistricting: Through a deliberate and highly partisan plan, Republican operatives seized control of state legislatures and implemented a strategic and highly disenfranchising gerrymandering campaign, to draw as few district boundaries around all of the Democratic demographic areas, and as many boundaries around predominantly Republican areas, even when those areas have far fewer residents. This happened following the 2010 census and the impacts have been profound, in that while there are significantly more Democrats than Republicans, they have been able to elect far fewer Democratic representatives to Congress than their actual numbers would suggest. This has given Republicans control of the House in each of the elections since 2010.
- Voting Restrictions in Red States: Along with the benefits of being in control of the redistricting process, Republicans have used their control of state legislatures to implement a wide array of deliberately restrictive voting conditions that disproportionately disadvantage communities of color, the elderly and the poor. These include providing A) too few places to vote, to make people have to travel out of their way; B) too few election staffers and voting machines at each location, so as to create long lines, long waits and make the burden of voting onerous on these communities; C) Limiting locations, hours or availability of Voter Registration places/mechanisms, to make registering to vote harder; D) Requiring voters to show ID, which slows down the process and increases the chances that people may not be able to vote, because they did not realize that they need ID or don’t have the correct ID item; E) Restricting voting methods, such as absentee ballots and early voting, so that voters who don’t have other options and can’t make it to vote on Election Day lose their chance to cast their ballot. (The repeal of the Voting Rights Act now permits states to enact much more restrictions than what was previously allowed when the Voting Rights Act was in effect.)
- State Disenfranchisement of Prisoner Populations: In case you haven’t been paying attention, there is a crisis of incarceration in the U.S. which disproportionately affects minorities and the poor. The U.S. has the highest percentage of population incarcerated of any country, and many states do not allow felons to vote and some even fail to restore the right to vote to felons after they have served their time. According to Wikipedia, “In the national elections 2012, all the various state felony disenfranchisement laws added together blocked an estimated 5.85 million felons from voting, up from 1.2 million in 1976.” This against serves to disproportionately disenfranchise minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.
- Corporate Money in Campaigns: The Citizen’s United ruling allowing corporations to donate to political campaigns or PACs in unlimited amounts, and further allowed corporations to donate “dark money” which hides the source of the funds, providing a way for deceptive advertising. This allows many groups to pretend that they have wide popular support, when in fact, a candidate or proposition may be wildly unpopular but the voices of real people are drowned out by a cacaphony of corporate ads, which benefit from unlimited corporate money. Since Republican policies often benefit corporations and hurt individuals and communities, the fact that people only hear the messages being created by the Corporations have the affect of rigging aspects of the election by misrepresenting issues and positions to voters, who may never get clarity on what is really at stake.
- Sexism: There is considerable sexism at play in American society. Women are vastly under-paid, relative to men and their right to control their own bodies is under assault by men and male-dominated policies. Women are 140 years behind men in having won the right to vote and the right to run for office, and have never been treated as equal parties to the terms of the Bill of Rights or the Constitution of the United States. Men vastly out-numbered women in Congress and men have male representation of their interests but women have little representation by women in Congress and have never had a woman president. As such, lacking role models, young women tend to engage in politics less than men and may take such sexist statements like “Don’t worry your pretty little head about politics” to heart, not recognizing that by not focusing on who represents them, they are ceding political control to men and male-dominated policies. Sexism has been at work in the Republican attacks on Hillary Clinton starting from when she emerged as a non-traditional First Lady and it has kept her as a target of Republican smear campaigns for more than 30 years and continues to undermine the respect Hillary has gotten as a candidate and the attitudes of women towards the franchise even in 2016.
- Corporate Media: In addition to corrupting free speech and civil discussion around elections with unlimited corporate money, corporations have also infiltrated into the day-to-day speech associated with our news cycles. They now control most all media outlets and many use their control of such outlets to tailor the conversation in partisan ways. This means that they are corrupting our understanding of daily facts and news with partisan interpretations that impact decisions about elections, tending to get voters who should identify as Democrats to vote contrary to their own interests. This is also why the Republicans can get away with things like calling a polluter-friendly piece of legislation that weakens clean air rules the “Clear Skies Initiative” or an anti-solar, utility-backed proposition like Florida’s current Amendment 1 on the ballot being touted as the “Smart Solar Amendment.” They know they can count on their corporate media outlets to not clarify for consumers why the law is only good for industry and bad for individuals.
- Russian & WIkileak Hacking: We have become aware of numerous instances of Russian hacking associated with the 2016 presidential campaign, including a break-in to the Democratic National Committee’s email server and the release of private emails through Wikileaks. This is an effort to discredit the Democrats and try to rig our election in favor of Republicans. It is also possible that the past hacking is not all there is and that these rogue actors are looking to do more to influence our election prior to or on Election Day.
- Decline of Education Funding in the U.S.: Nothing prepares a citizen to be a responsible voter more than having a good education. Responsible voters tend to vote their own actual interests and have more ability to recognize deceptive advertising campaigns when they see them. They read more materials and get input from a wider array of news sources and so can suss out those less credible sources. This explains why Republicans have repeatedly sought to decrease funding for Education, which helps create a larger class of clueless voters that can be preyed upon by corporate media and corporate advertising.
- Urbanization and American Checks & Balances: These are both good things but the impacts of both tend to reduce Democrats voices in government. Urbanization means that more people live within smaller geographic areas, making some states have very large populations and some states much smaller populations. The U.S. has one-third of its governmental power held by the Congress, which itself is comprises of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is a body that is outright unfair representation based upon population. A state with very few people, like Nebraska has just as much Senate representation as a state like California, which is larger than many world nations. Even when people vote for their Senators, there is a vast difference in the amount of representation they get because of the format of the Senate and its particular rules. This is why Republicans in the Senate, who primarily hail from small states, can prevent the will of the people from actually being implemented.
If you can think of other ways it is rigged, please share them in the comments!