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Trump's false claims of rigged voting are 'a perilous thing,' says top Republican expert

Jon Ward
·Senior Political Correspondent
·4-min read

The handful of mistakes made by election officials this year do not represent a deeper problem and are not evidence of cheating, said one of the leading Republican authorities on elections for the past four decades. He added that President Trump’s rhetoric about the election is “perilous.”

“I’ve been looking at polling places for 38 years as part of my duties and passion for [the] Republican Party doing well in elections,” said Ben Ginsberg, who has advised almost every GOP presidential nominee over the past 20 years, including Trump.

“We’ve been looking for fraud and I know what evidence is available, and there’s not anything like enough evidence to make the bold assertion that our elections are rigged and fraudulent. And it is a perilous thing for a president of the United States to be saying that,” he said in an interview on “The Long Game,” a Yahoo News podcast.

Ginsberg retired from law practice on Aug. 31, and a week later the historically tight-lipped legal eagle began to speak out about the almost daily disinformation coming from Trump. Since retiring, he’s written two op-eds for the Washington Post and has appeared on numerous TV news shows.

His main message is twofold. One, election fraud is rare, and there is no proof of anything close to what Trump constantly claims. And second, the president’s words are dangerous and harmful to the country.

“After decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged,” Ginsberg wrote on Sept. 8.

“I can say with confidence that evidence to support the president’s words and threatened actions does not exist. The president has consistently been behind in the polls, and his aim appears to be seeding chaos in order to somehow cling to power,” he wrote on Sept. 29.

And in an interview with Showtime’s “The Circus,” Ginsberg said that Trump’s false claims are “corroding a pillar of the country and the democracy.”

Ben Ginsberg (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Charles Dharapak, AP (2))
Ben Ginsberg. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Charles Dharapak, AP (2))

In his interview with Yahoo News, Ginsberg discussed Trump’s recent rhetoric about poll watchers, and batted down the notion that a handful of isolated incidents mentioned recently by the president are evidence of a rigged election.

Ginsberg said that Trump’s comments — calling on his supporters to go to the polls and “watch very carefully” and his instruction earlier this month to “watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do” — could create problems for voters.

“I certainly don’t have any concerns with doing what is allowed in state law,” Ginsberg said, noting that both parties recruit poll watchers, and most states limit the number per polling place and forbid them from interacting with voters. But, he said, “if that means a posse of poll watchers trying to go into a polling place and causing disruption, then that’s problematic.”

As for Trump’s constant mention of a few recent incidents, and his claim that these were proof of cheating, Ginsberg said this was not the case.

“Those incidents, even if true, are not systemic fraud that would lead to a rigged election or even an outcome-determinative sway in votes,” he said.

In Luzerne County, Pa., where nine ballots were discarded by accident, Ginsberg said that the county is “about as Republican a county as you can find, [so] you would not think that the local officials would be trying to hurt their presidential candidate.”

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
President Trump at the first presidential debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Sept. 29 in Cleveland. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

And as for a handful of ballots found among hundreds of pieces of discarded mail in Wisconsin, Ginsberg said that this was, similarly, an isolated mistake that doesn’t amount to a larger problem.

“There are 10,500 jurisdictions in the country who have some responsibility over the casting and counting of ballots. That’s the way our system is,” he said. “But with that many moving parts, there will be an uneven quality of people and procedures in each of those jurisdictions, and mistakes will happen. Mistakes happen every cycle, they should be rooted out, they should be corrected, but that should not be confused with widespread fraud that yields inaccurate elections.”

He rejected the notion that these incidents are just the ones we know about, and there are many more that go undetected.

“I’m afraid that people who say it’s the tip of the iceberg, in fact, are looking at ice cubes that got dropped in the water and melt on contact,” he said. “And they’re confusing the tip of the iceberg for a melting ice cube.”

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