Amid Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump’s calls to be vigilant against voter fraud on Election Day, an expert in the United States has warned that “violence is certainly a possibility” at these places if a significant number of his supporters show up and challenge voters.
“The chance for mischief at the polling places, if there are significant numbers of Trump supporters showing up and challenging voters on sight -- who knows what could happen? But violence is certainly a possibility,” Dean of the Austin Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College David Birdsell said.
“And more likely is the prevention of people voting. Those are not mutually exclusive for obvious reasons. So that’s a concern,” he said.
He said Trump has been urging his supporters to go to polling sites to “monitor” what is happening and make sure that the votes are not stolen.
“That’s his language, and he has used other language as well, but he has used those words in basically taking untrained, common citizens, and asking them to go to polling places and effectively challenge people and say, ‘You don’t look like you’re registered in this area?” he said at a session organised by the New York Foreign Press Centre last week.
Trump has called on his supporters to be vigilant against widespread voter fraud and a rigged outcome.
“Voter fraud is all too common, and then they criticise us for saying that,” Trump said at a rally on Tuesday in Colorado Springs.
“But take a look at Philadelphia, what is been going on, take a look at Chicago, take a look at St Louis. Take a look at some of these cities, where you see things happening that are horrendous.”
Birdsell said that Trump cannot simply get up and say the election is “illegitimate”.
“If everything scans with the polls, if there is no evidence of any impropriety, if the monitors to the extent that they exist -- and I’m talking about those who actually come from election boards and other authorities rather than volunteers from campaigns -- see no indications of impropriety, it’s going to be very hard to present any credible evidence to a court that would invalidate the result of the election,” he said.
Birdsell noted that there is an allegation that there will be cyber hacking, perhaps some of it from abroad.
“I have given you the scenario that we could have violence at polling places that would prevent people from voting and change the character of a vote in a precinct that might tip a state. Again, unlikely, but it’s possible,” he said.
He added that while he is not too worried about a constitutional crisis, he is worried about further diminishment of the basic reputation of the voting process in the US. There might be a “significant minority” of voters rejecting the election result on November 8.
Image: A man holds voter registration forms outside a campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters