Proof of systemic voter fraud is “the Loch Ness Monster of the Republican party”, a veteran GOP campaign lawyer said, two days out from a presidential election marked by Donald Trump’s insistence that the vote will be rigged against him.
“People have spent a lot of time looking for it,” Benjamin Ginsberg wrote for the Washington Post, exhorting Americans to “vote, but not for” Trump.
“But it doesn’t exist.”
Before election day on Tuesday, Trump trails Joe Biden in national and most battleground state polls. In the face of unprecedented early voting, in person and by mail, the president has continued to claim his opponents will rig the vote.
At the same time, Republican state governments have implemented familiar voter suppression measures: limiting drop boxes for ballots, reducing polling locations and challenging votes cast in court.
Ginsberg, 68, is a Republican party veteran who in 2013 co-chaired the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which was established by Barack Obama and which recommended a series of electoral reforms.
“As he confronts losing,” Ginsberg wrote, “Trump has devoted his campaign and the Republican party to this myth of voter fraud. Absent being able to articulate a cogent plan for a second term or find an attack against Joe Biden that will stick, disenfranchising enough voters has become key to his re-election strategy.
“Perhaps this was the plan all along. The president’s unsubstantiated talk about ‘rigged’ elections caused by absentee ballot ‘fraud’ and ‘cheating’ has been around since 2016; it’s just increased in recent weeks.
“Trump has enlisted a compliant Republican party in this shameful effort. The Trump campaign and Republican entities engaged in more than 40 voting and ballot court cases around the country this year. In exactly none – zero – are they trying to make it easier for citizens to vote. In many, they are seeking to erect barriers.”
On Monday, a federal court in Texas will hear a Republican-led case which seeks to throw out 127,000 ballots cast at drive-thru drop boxes, installed to make voting easier and safer during the coronavirus pandemic.
The votes are from Harris county, which covers Houston, the fourth-largest city in the US, and leans Democratic. The case failed twice in the Texas supreme court.
“Perhaps,” Ginsberg wrote, the Texas party “forgot the Republican expressions of outrage in Florida in 2000 when Democrats sought unsuccessfully to exclude 25,000 absentee ballots in GOP counties because of administrative error, not voter fault.
“I was there, and I haven’t.”
Ginsberg was national counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004, according to his biography at the 2013 presidential commission, playing “a central role in the 2000 Florida recount”.
It was a winning role. Twenty years ago, Florida ended up handing the presidency to George W Bush over Al Gore, despite the Democrat narrowly winning the national popular vote. In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3m ballots but won the White House in the electoral college, a scenario which could repeat itself this year.
“The GOP lawyers managing these lawsuits may have tactical reasons for bringing each,” Ginsberg wrote. “But taken as a whole, they shout the unmistakable message that an expanded electorate means Trump loses.”
In 2004, Ginsberg advised the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a group which successfully and many say scurrilously attacked John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for president. Ginsberg went on to be national counsel for Mitt Romney in his presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
After Romney’s defeat by Obama in the latter contest, the then Republican chairman, Reince Priebus, commissioned a famous report which detailed how the party needed to expand its appeal if it was to compete for power in future. Trump’s rise, and a retreat to the party’s white base, followed. Priebus became Trump’s first chief of staff.
“How sad it is,” Ginsberg wrote, “to recall that just seven years ago the Grand Old Party conducted an ‘autopsy’ that emphasised the urgency of building a big tent to reach communities of color, women and young voters. Now it is erecting voting barriers for those very groups. Instead of enlarging the tent, the party has taken a chain saw to its center pole.
“My party is destroying itself on the altar of Trump. Republican elected officials, party leaders and voters must recognise how harmful this is to the party’s long-term prospects.
“My fellow Republicans, look what we’ve become. It is we who must fix this. Trump should not be re-elected. Vote, but not for him.”