On the eve of Election Night, multiple local conservatives and Trump supporters said they trusted the election process in determining the next president of the United States. But with projections coming in from news organizations around the world that former Vice-President Joe Biden will be the president-elect, this has changed.
At the “USU for Trump” parade in Logan on Nov. 2, event organizers Grace Henderson and Corey Wettstein said they had faith in the election system and would trust the results. Two days later, the Instagram page the two run posted, “It’s becoming obvious the Democrat’s tried to rig the election last night through voter fraud. As President Trump was on his way to anther win. Don’t get discouraged.”
On Wednesday, the Cache County GOP released a similar statement, which read, “While the media has called the presidential election in favor of Joe Biden, we who know and believe in the rule of law understand that nothing is certified yet and there is a legitimate legal challenge to the results. Gross irregularities and wrongdoings were committed during the counting process in several key states.”
While states are still canvassing results and minor irregularities are bound to happen in such a complex process, judges, election officials and national media outlets so far maintain that Trump and his supporters have failed to produce evidence of coordinated, wide-scale voter fraud.
And according to Damon Cann, a political science professor at Utah State University, this is not a new pattern. Cann worked with Brigham Young University Professor David Magelby to conduct surveys with voters before and after the 2016 Presidential Election to gauge how confident people were with the election system.
“Before the election, Republicans were more likely to say, ‘nope, I don’t think our votes will be counted as intended,’ and Democrats more likely to trust that their votes were being counted as intended,” Cann said. “After the election, what we found is when it had been noted Trump had won the election, we found that Democrats were less confident their votes had been counted as intended, and Republicans were more confident.”
The tables have turned in 2020, but the sentiment of the study remains true, which is concerning to Cann.
“It suggests many people in our country are not good at separating the integrity of the election process from the winner of the election process,” he said. “They have such distrust of the other side … people can no longer believe the candidate they voted for could lose unless election fraud.”
Henderson and Wettstein also mentioned what they see as evidence of fraud, such as states like Wisconsin and Michigan flipping Blue in the middle of the night as absentee ballots were counted and Biden’s lead grew.
“I thought I could trust the election system, until all this stuff has come forward,” Henderson said.
Election officials from every state, including Michigan and Wisconsin, and election spokespeople have denied allegations of widespread voter fraud. This is keeping with Cann’s research on the trustworthiness of the election system.
“There are voting irregularities that happen, a small number of votes in question, but that’s very unlikely to alter the direction of election,” he said. “As of yet, we haven’t seen anyone provide evidence of a large number, or widespread fabrication of ballots or votes in numbers that could change the outcome of the election.”
Wettstein also said he didn’t trust how a large number of ballots were filled out where participants had only marked their choice for Biden as president, leaving the other fields blank.
Cann, however, said that’s common.
“It’s one of the ironies of American politics,” said the professor and North Logan mayor. “Our highest turnout in elections are elections when presidents on the ballot. But the presidential election is the least likely chance for your vote to change the outcome of the election.”
While President Donald Trump is within his legal rights to request recounts in narrow races, Cann said it’s highly unlikely the result will change, given the lack of evidence, and “all evidence points to the Electoral College wrapping up this election in the same way they have for generations.”
“My worry is less about fraud, but more that the division in the country is such where we might never see another election where people seek out opportunities to vote due to the perception of illegitimate election institutions.”
Cann said even after recounts are conducted and lawsuits settled, he’s worried people will have already made up their minds on the whether or not the system is functional. Henderson, despite giving credence to claims of election fraud, has a similar concern.
The Electoral College will meet on Dec. 14 after ballots have been canvassed to make an official determination on the winner of the election.
Whether President Trump will concede or provide the resources for a peaceful transition of power remains to be seen.