President Donald Trump opened his presidency by falsely claiming massive voter fraud in California. Now he’s returned to the subject, raising the prospect that the outcome of next week’s recall election could follow the same divisive path as last year’s presidential election.
Trump, who told Newsmax this week that the election to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is “probably rigged,” is the most prominent in a string of conservatives who have cast evidence-free aspersions on the upcoming vote.
With Republican figures simultaneously telling voters that Newsom’s defeat is inevitable and cautioning that Democrats will try to manipulate the outcome — and polls showing Newsom is likely to survive — it’s a combustible combination. It also might be a preview of what’s in store for the 2022 midterm elections in the wake of Trump’s barrage of false claims about the integrity of election results.
Republican-turned-independent Assemblymember Chad Mayes said his phone has been lighting up with “texts saying ‘don’t let them steal it.’”
“It’s this constant messaging that somehow if Republicans lose elections, it’s because of voter fraud. It is wrong, it is dangerous, and it needs to stop,” Mayes said.
Republican frontrunner and talk show host Larry Elder, who has denied that President Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 election, is among those fomenting the idea of a tainted recall election. He has urged his followers to report “suspicious” recall activity, while saying he was preemptively prepared to file a lawsuit.
Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren assured viewers this week that only malfeasance could deliver Newsom a win.
“The only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is voter fraud,” Lahren said on Fox.
As prominent Republicans and pundits fan the flames, social media has circulated a story about Torrance police arresting a man with drugs, a gun and hundreds of sealed mail-in ballots (police are still investigating) and a debunked claim that California ballots are designed to reveal how people voted.
All of it resembles the contentious aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, which has been marked by Trump’s ongoing election fraud lie.
“There has been this relentless false narrative about election fraud we’ve been hearing for almost a year now” that “peaked with the insurrection on Jan. 6, and it’s been continuing,” said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. “Just because something doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean someone’s trying to steal your vote,” she added, but as conspiracies circulate online, “the more outrageous it is, the quicker people hit the ‘share’ button.”
Warnings about pervasive fraud have helped erode Republican distrust in elections. And no one has played a more pivotal role in undermining trust than Trump. As far back as 2016, after Trump lost California by more than 4 million votes, he claimed he was the victim of “massive voter fraud.”
Two years later, he returned to the sub….