Opinion: U.S. elections have integrity. One party’s politicians do not

Here they go again.

Six months before election day, for the third straight presidential contest, Donald Trump and his Republican lickspittles are sounding alarms about virtually nonexistent voting fraud, laying the groundwork to claim that he wuz robbed should he lose to President Biden.

Stipple-style portrait illustration of Jackie Calmes

Opinion Columnist

Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes brings a critical eye to the national political scene. She has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.

Trump has refused in recent interviews to commit to accepting the results in November; since the sore loser still doesn’t concede his 2020 defeat, his antidemocratic perfidy about 2024 doesn’t surprise. Neither do the echoes from his servile party, especially the Republicans vying to be his running mate. Lately, their dodges of reporters’ questions about whether they’d honor the outcome are nothing short of cringeworthy.

And Speaker “MAGA Mike” Johnson (R-La.), after huddling with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on the topic, is seeking to ram through the House a bill forcing anyone registering to vote to provide documentary proof of citizenship beyond driver’s licenses or Social Security cards, to prevent noncitizens from voting — something that almost never occurs and is already a federal crime.

Policy isn’t the point, however; politics is. This gambit is a two-fer for firing up Republican voters: It plays to their anti-immigrant fervor and election fraud myths.

“We all know, intuitively, that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections,” Johnson lied at a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol steps. “But it’s not been something that is easily provable. We don’t have that number.”

Because it doesn’t exist, certainly not on the scale that Johnson, Trump and other Republicans claim. Repeated studies, including last year in Arizona, show that examples of noncitizens trying to vote are infinitesimal, and even those few are mostly prevented from actually registering or casting ballots.

Here’s how I would like to make America great again: By getting Republicans to stop lying about fraud, stop legislating unnecessary voting restrictions and restore what had been a bipartisan consensus — that our elections are free and fair, a model for the world. The 2020 election that Trump still insists was stolen from him? A council of his own Homeland Security Department declared it “the most secure in American history.”

Before Trump, no one had to ask candidates whether they’d accept the results of an election. Of all Trump’s shattered norms, his refusal to commit to that bedrock principle is perhaps the most corrosive to our democratic foundations.

“If everything’s honest, I’ll gladly accept the results,” Trump told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this month, before another MAGA rally where he falsely claimed he won Wisconsin in 2020. “If it’s not, you have to fight for the right of the country.” When a Time magazine reporter asked if he expected violence after the 2024 election, Trump replied matter-of-factly, “If we don’t win, you know, it depends.”

In other words, “If I win, I’ll accept the results.” And, “If I lose, you might get hurt.” As Biden says, most recently on CNN on Wednesday, “You can’t only love your country when you’re winning.”

Even when Trump won in 2016, thanks to a majority in the electoral college, he cried fraud. Stung that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots, he concocted the lie that 3 million to 5 million immigrants in the country illegally had voted for her. Trump’s alliance with the House speaker against all-but-nonexistent voting by noncitizens has the added benefit, for him, of fortifying that falsehood.

Trashing elections — and specifically, declining to pledge support for the results — comes naturally to Trump. But for his toadies, the stance is awkward, to say the least.

The once-respected Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina last week embarrassingly dodged the question of whether he’d accept the outcome of the 2024 vote more than a half-dozen times on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” When host Kristen Welker persisted in seeking a simple yes or no, Scott peevishly objected, “This is why so many Americans believe that NBC is an extension of the Democrat Party.” (Scott, like many Republican trolls, childishly won’t use the opposition’s rightful name: Democratic Party.)

Among others aching to be Trump’s vice presidential nominee, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum similarly sidestepped the question on CNN’s “State of the Union.” And Rep. Elise Stefanik, a House Republican leader from New York, refused to say whether she’d vote in Congress to certify 2024 results. “We’ll see if this is a legal and valid election,” she told Welker.

In February, Trump favorite Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio lashed out at host George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “This Week” for asking about the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol and finally conceded that if he’d been vice president, he wouldn’t have certified Biden’s election afterward as former Vice President Mike Pence did. Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida wouldn’t commit to Axios that, if he’s Trump’s vice president, he’d certify the 2028 presidential votes if a Democrat wins.

What a sorry signal to the rest of the world when prominent politicians — and, really, their entire party — won’t acknowledge the proven integrity of U.S. elections.

If Democrats are stealing elections, how do these Republicans account for their own victories? How is it that Democrats allowed Republicans to capture control of the House in 2022?

Well, Republicans now seem to have their answer: It’s because Democrats hadn’t yet allowed enough undocumented migrants into the country to vote illegally!

“That is the design, I think, of why they opened the border,” Johnson said on CNBC, mimicking Trump’s rally rhetoric. “To turn them into voters.”

That just ain’t so, and Johnson knows it — I give him that much credit. Noncitizens aren’t voting. U.S. elections aren’t rigged. Voter fraud is vanishingly rare. Republicans who tell you differently are lying.

And we all know, intuitively, why.