Donald Trump is down more than nine points in an average of six recent Pennsylvania polls, and some political analysts have said the Republican’s odds of winning the state don’t look good.
But the way Trump sees it, there is only one conceivable way he could lose the commonwealth — if the other side cheats.
At a rally in Altoona Friday, Trump suggested rampant voter fraud in November is a real possibility, telling supporters that “the only way we can lose, in my opinion — I really mean this, Pennsylvania — is if cheating goes on.”
He called on voters to make sure no funny business happens at the polls.
“We have to call up law enforcement,” he said. “We have to have the sheriffs, and the police chiefs, and everybody watching.”
Jack Treadway, a former political science professor and author of a book on Pennsylvania elections, said with those remarks, Trump crossed a line.
“He really does insult voters in the state,” Treadway said. “This notion that … ‘I want to make sure nobody votes 10 times’ — nobody can vote 10 times. You risk going to prison, for one thing, but it’s just not possible, and there’s no evidence that it occurs.”
Treadway said there have been allegations of voter fraud in Pennsylvania in the past, but nothing of significance in recent history.
The Department of State, which oversees elections, released a statement saying it is “confident that the November election will meet the high standards of accuracy and fairness that have marked commonwealth elections in the past.”
It went on to say that the insinuation of such fraud “has no basis in fact and undermines confidence in our system of government.”
Election officials in various counties corroborated the statement.
One of them, Jerry Feaser, director of the Dauphin County Bureau of Voter Registrations and Election, said his district follows very specific protocols to prevent inaccuracies.
“Our process rests on well-trained election workers,” Feaser said. “We conduct training sessions before each election. Many of the people who have worked the polls have worked them for decades, and anybody who’s a first-time poll worker will come to a training session before we assign them to an election district.”
Pa. election officials not worried about fraud
Similar protocols are followed across the state, though they do vary by district.
Mark Wolosik, division manager for the Allegheny County Board of Elections, said he isn’t worried about fraud either.
He noted that, under state law, it is common practice to have poll watchers. Democrat Hillary Clinton will almost certainly have them in November as well.
“In November elections, a candidate has the right to appoint two watchers in every election district in which he or she is a candidate, and political parties are entitled to appoint three watchers,” he said.
Certified poll watchers can keep tabs on voters and alert officials if they think fraud’s taking place.But they can’t interact directly with or intimidate voters.
Treadway said Trump’s comments, however, do have the potential to incite more extreme action from supporters, potentially beyond the bounds of state law regarding poll watchers.
“He has a lot of followers who believe these things, who are convinced that the deck is stacked against them, that the media, party regulars, other people, are out to get them,” Treadway said.
“This just feeds into that, which creates the potential for somebody doing something,” he added. “In effect, he’s giving his blessing to that.”
Treadway said he doesn’t think Trump’s specifically advocating people break the law. But he said the GOP candidate’s creating an atmosphere that could make it happen.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.