Could The 2016 Election Be Rigged? MSU Political Scientist Weighs In

DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – Republican Presidential contender Donald Trump is making the claim over and over on social media, and it has many wondering: Could this election really be rigged?

Not in any real way, according to Michigan State University Political Scientist Matt Grossmann. He says he believes the election system in the U.S. is too decentralized to be the target of any big conspiracy.

“There are some legitimate concerns about recounts in places where we only have machine counting – no paper trail – but the concern is not really with fraud, it’s about if something went wrong with the computer,” says Grossmann.

He says the jury is still out on whether the 1960 election was rigged in favor of John F. Kennedy or whether the infamous first TV debate between the composed, younger Kennedy and the nervous looking Richard M. Nixon was the tipping point for a legitimate win.  Kennedy won the popular vote by only .1 percent. Texas and Illinois pulled out the victory for Kennedy and there was widespread allegation of fraud in those two states based partly on alleged Kennedy ties to a Chicago mob boss.

But voting has changed a lot since then.

“Our decentralized system – where we do elections by state and sometimes by county rules — makes it very difficult for any kind of centralized effort to change election outcomes other than actually through voting,” says Grossmann.

And yet skepticism persists. Per NPR, Around 30 percent of Americans have “little or no confidence” that votes will be counted accurately — and Trump’s voters are far less confident about that than Clinton’s.

According to poling wizard Nate Silver’s website FiveThirtyEight, Hillary Clinton has an 88 percent chance of winning to Trump’s 12 percent.

That means before there’s any possibility of “rigging” the ballot box, Clinton has a handy lead in states and counties across the country.

And then there’s list, from NPR of reasons it’s just not possible:

  • Elections are held in public places and staffed by private citizens;
  • Party officials and lawyers are at the ready to challenge if needed;
  • Voting machines have systems in place to prevent fraud — for example, they are “equipped with multiple interconnected counters that make it impossible to add or remove votes secretly;”
  • Representatives of both candidates and parties observe vote-counting.




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