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'Rigged' Election Myths Contradict Voter Fraud's Low Threat To Sway Outcome


Election Day is Tuesday, and this year the process itself - the actual process of pulling a lever. Making a mark or pressing a button to vote - has been the source of anxiety. NPR's Pam Fessler has been covering the mechanics of voting and vote fraud. She joins us in our studios. Pam, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: You've been looking into some stories and reports that have flared up already of people who suspect vote fraud. And you're in a position to tell us what they've amounted to so far.

FESSLER: Well, one of the things that we've seen a lot of misinformation - for example, there were these widely circulated tweets that looked like official Hillary Clinton ads that told people they could save time by texting their vote instead of actually going to the polls. That's completely false. And there was a rumor that Trump supporters were using attack dogs to intimidate black voters in Ohio - again, not true.

SIMON: In this day and age, people sometimes point out that bank robbers don't have to use guns. They can just use a keyboard. Is hacking the most ominous potential threat for vote fraud, particularly 'cause it may not be easy to detect?

FESSLER: Right. I mean, there's a lot of concern that somebody might try and hack the election and some of the election equipment. Now, it's very unlikely that anybody could tamper with the actual results enough to sway the outcome of the election, but they could cause some havoc. There are voter registration lists that the states have. Somebody could tamper with those. They could possibly tamper with something that leads to an election - say, if there was an Internet attack that disrupted people's efforts to try and find out where their polling places are and how to get to them. So that's what the big concern is, and we've already seen some indications that parties affiliated with Russia have been trying to get into some of the voter registration systems. So authorities around the country are basically on high alert looking for that.

SIMON: Donald Trump has used the term rigged when talking about the elections. Has that had some palpable effect you've seen?

FESSLER: Right. He's several times said that he thinks that the election's going to be stolen from him, that some people are potentially going to vote five, 10 times. And he's asked his supporters to go watch the polls to make sure that there isn't any cheating going on. The evidence is that voter fraud is very, very rare. I mean, it does exist in places, but it's very, very rare. And - but this has had a big impact on voter confidence in the results of the election. We're seeing in polls this year only a minority of voters believe that the vote will accurately be counted in this year's election. And that is much lower than it's ever been.

SIMON: What are election officials across the country doing with all this widespread public skepticism?

FESSLER: Well, one thing they are doing is trying to reassure people as much as possible that the process is fair, that the election equipment is not being hacked. They test the equipment. Usually, they do it publicly, so that people can see, so that they do have more confidence in the system. And honestly, 99.9 percent of voters in this country are probably going to encounter absolutely no problem at the polls on Election Day. And they're trying to get that message out.

SIMON: NPR's Pam Fessler, thanks so much.

FESSLER: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.