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The Election-Rigging Conspiracy

Facing nearly certain defeat at the polls, and unwilling to acknowledge his own weaknesses as a candidate, Donald Trump has raised the spectre of a rigged election. Trump's mental surrogate Scott Adams is confident this will happen.

Because whenever humans have motive, opportunity, a high upside gain, and low odds of detection, shenanigans happen 100% of the time. Our vote-counting systems have plenty of weak spots. Rigging (to some degree) is a near guarantee.

The holes in this logic are wide enough to drive a truck full of ballots through. Election lawyer Chris Ashby outlines some of the precautions in place to guarantee the openness and fairness of elections. For example, voting machines are tested in public, in full view of representatives of all major parties. The machines are equipped with multiple counters; any tampering would quickly become evident.

Elections are held in public places, in full view of representatives of both parties. Vote counts are tallied, too, in full view of party representatives. In fact, there is no point at which bipartisan monitors are not watching to guarantee a fair election. Ashby concludes:

So the election is not rigged. In fact, it’s anti-rigged. To rig an election, you would need (1) technological capabilities that exist only in Mission Impossible movies, plus (2) the cooperation of the Republicans and Democrats who are serving as the polling place’s election officials, plus (3) the blind eyes of the partisan pollwatchers who are standing over their shoulders, plus (4) the cooperation of another set of Republicans and Democrats — the officials at the post-elections canvass, plus (5) the blind eyes of the canvass watchers, too. Then you’d still have to jedi-mind trick lawyers, political operatives and state election administrators, all of whom scrub precinct-level returns for aberrant election results, and scrutinize any polling place result that is not in line with what they would have expected, based on current political dynamics and historical election results.

On top of all that, as NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben points out, we have decentralized elections, with each state overseeing its own results. State officials are watching closely, as they always do. And there's another factor to consider.

Many of the closest states — Ohio, Iowa, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Alaska, Georgia — have Republican governors. That means the rigging would have to take place under Republican administrations — people who would, theoretically, have more reason to want Trump rather than Clinton to win.

Beyond that, Clinton already has a large lead in most polls. Assuming the polls are even remotely accurate, what could the Clinton campaign possibly gain by tampering with the results?

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