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The Nation’s Ari Berman says voter fraud remains virtually non-existent, but there is a real danger that many U.S. citizens will be unable to vote due to restrictive voting laws

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JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Monday reiterated his allegations the elections were rigged and cited studies he said showed rampant voter fraud, even as republican lawyers called his allegations unfounded. DONALD TRUMP: They even want to try to rig the election at the polling booths. Believe me this is a lot going on. You ever hear these people? They say there’s nothing going on. People that have died 10 years ago are still voting. Illegal immigrants are voting. I mean, where are the street smarts of some of these politicians. They don’t have any is right. So many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is very, very common. NOOR: Trump, a New York businessman making his first run for public office has sought to raise fears of a flawed election as he’s fallen in opinion polls against democrat Hillary Clinton. Especially after a growing number of women have stepped forward and accused him of sexual assault. Well now joining us to discuss this is Ari Berman. He’s a senior contributor for The Nation, author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. His latest in The Nation is This Election Is Being Rigged but Not by the Democrats. Thanks so much for joining us again Ari. ARI BERMAN: Thanks for having me back. NOOR: So Ari you and others have fought back against Trump’s allegations. Yesterday he sighted Pugh Trust Research from 2012 that called for updates of the voter registration system because about 24 million registrations were inaccurate. He also referred to a 2014 article in the Washington Post by two political scientists that said non-citizens who voted could have accounted for democratic victories in a few close elections, even though those authors acknowledged the sample size for their study was very small. BERMAN: Yea well what Trump didn’t acknowledge was that basically ever major international survey has shown that voter fraud that is a very small problem in American elections, that voter impersonation in particular is exceedingly rare. He did not mention for example that since the 2000 election there have been a billion votes casts. Only 31 cases of voter impersonation. So he’s cherry picking his evidence. He’s saying dead people are voting. They’re not voting. He’s saying illegal immigrants are voting. That’s a very very small problem in terms of American elections. And he’s basically trying to create this boogieman so if and when he loses he can claim that it wasn’t a fair election and he’s really raising lots of fears of potential intimidation, possibly violence in the polling places come election day. NOOR: And we know some of his supporters have, so he’s asked the supporters to sort of be on watch, especially in the “inner cities”. Obviously coded language. But how difficult is it to actually commit voter fraud. Is it something that you can just walk into a polling place and do without much difficulty? BERMAN: It’s quite difficult to commit voter fraud. Particularly in the numbers in the swinging election. So maybe you can get away with impersonating one voter. Maybe you can get away with falsifying one absentee ballot. But if you do it in the numbers that would actually swing an election, you’re going to get caught. So if you go and you try to vote 10 times, well someone’s going to figure out that you voted more than once if you show up at the same polling place or try to go to a different place and impersonate another voter. If you try to rig a thousand of absentee ballots to swing an election, that’s going to raise suspicion and you’re going to be caught. What we’ve seen from the data is that voter fraud is a very small problem and when the fraud is committed that people are caught. NOOR: So some in the Republican party have sort of asked Trump to refrain from these sort of allegations. But aren’t they the ones that started the whole talk of voter fraud? Aren’t they responsible for it? They’ve been saying this for quite some time. You talk about this in your piece. BERMAN: Absolutely. The Republican party does not have clean hands here. Ever since the George W. Bush administration, they’ve really been on a crusade to label democrats as the party of voter fraud, the party of cheaters. In the Bush administration for example, US attorneys were fired for not prosecuting voter fraud cases because they believed they were bogus. The Bush administration did a 5-year investigation to voter fraud. Interestingly enough they didn’t find one case of voter impersonation that they could actually prosecute. They began a topic of voter fraud as a way to build public support for new voting restrictions like voter ID laws that would make it harder for democratic constituencies to be able to vote. In 2008 John McCain said [Acorn] was on the verge of perpetuating the greatest fraud in American history. That wasn’t true. 2012, you heard all sorts of rhetoric about how Barack Obama was going to steal the election. So it’s not like republicans can suddenly come out and say Trump needs to stop. They created this monster and really what’s happening is Trump’s just pouring gasoline on the fire that republicans already started. NOOR: And for years now you have been documenting what many would say is a greater danger to American democracy and that is restrictive voting laws. Talk about the impact, the potential impact that could have in this election and if you think that’s a greater threat than what Trump is talking about. BERMAN: You’re absolutely right. That is the much greater threat. The fact that there are all these new laws that are making it harder to vote. That 14 states have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in 2016. If Trump really wanted to talk about real election rigging, he would talk about the fact that this is the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. This is the first presidential elections since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. I’ve been documenting many, many cases of people that are already being turned away from the polls in states like Wisconsin where early voting has begun because they don’t have the correct ID for example. Or people who haven’t been able ot register to vote or people who might not be able to vote because the lines are so long. So there are real issues in American elections. That’s what we should be focusing on. We should be focusing on how do we get voter turnout from 60 percent to 70 to 80 to 90 percent. How do we fix the fact that a quarter of Americans aren’t even registered to vote? Instead of talking about those problems we’re talking about these phantom episodes of voter fraud and these bogus claims of election breaking instead. NOOR: Alright Ari Berman it’s always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much for joining us. BERMAN: Thanks a lot for having me. NOOR: And thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.


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Ari Berman is a senior contributing writer for The Nation magazine and a Fellow at The Nation Institute. His new book,Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, was published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.