Donald Trump’s chances of winning are astronomically small. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has him at a 12 per cent chance to win the election, the lowest odds of any recent presidential candidate. His rival Hillary Clinton enjoys a 6.6 per cent lead in the popular vote.
The third presidential debate seemed to have changed nothing, with polls showing a consistent gap between the two candidates with little time to make up ground before the November 8 election.
Trump’s campaign has shattered most norms of American politics. With this in mind, it is perhaps not so surprising that Trump has recently announced he will not accept the results of the election, unless of course he wins.
“I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win,” said Trump last week. He continued to say he would accept a “clear election result,” and would challenge anything he deems “questionable”.
With Clinton’s current predicted margin of victory, a ‘questionable’ result is unlikely.
Trump’s continued statements that the American political system is rigged against him has fed into the fears of what was once a fringe aspect of far right discourse. He has not provided any evidence himself, but the idea that their very electoral system is stacked against them is now a common belief among some groups of Trump supporters.
These groups point towards instances of voter fraud outlined in right-wing blogs and websites, such as groups of democratic supporters being bussed between polling stations.
But what is Trump’s endgame in all of this? Does he seriously plan to contest the election results should they be against him, or, as some believe, is this merely a calculated business move before he launches ‘Trump TV’ — a new far-right television station catering to the base he has now cultivated.
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll has found that only half of Republicans say they would accept Clinton as their president. In addition, nearly 70 per cent said a Clinton win would be a direct result of vote rigging or voter fraud.
Meanwhile, 70 per cent of democrats say they would accept a Trump win, while less than 50 per cent would blame his victory on rigging the vote.
Additionally, only six in 10 republicans believe their vote will be counted accurately, while eight in 10 democrats say the same.
To put things in context, voter fraud is essentially a non-issue in American politics. Instances of voter fraud are exceedingly rare. A professor at Loyola Law School, Justin Levitt, who also works in the Justice Department, found that between 2000 and 2014 there were only 31 credible claims of voter impersonation. Over this same time period, there were an expected one billion ballots casted.
Voter disenfranchisement, meanwhile, is much more common, especially in areas with heavy minority populations. This is often done through voter ID laws, restrictive voting dates, unequal distribution of electoral resources, and most erogenously, the practice of gerrymandering — the deliberate drawing of consituency lines to manipulate election results.
The United States government has accused Russia of conducting several cyber-attacks on organizations of the Democratic party in an attempt to influence the upcoming election.
Clinton believes these attacks are aimed at discrediting her as a candidate, and aiding her opponent Donald Trump. She has also said she will not contest the outcome of the election, regardless of who wins.