Allegations of election rigging, voter fraud, and Russian hacking have helped turn this election season into a string of conspiracy theories. However, unlike the meme identifying Ted Cruz as the Zodiac Killer, these theories are genuinely striking a chord with voters. A chief example of this is a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, which surveyed nearly 2,000 registered voters, and found that 41 percent of voters now believe the election can be stolen. This reaction has been spurred by Donald Trump’s recent amped up rhetoric of fixed elections.
The survey also found that 60 percent of those polled believe it is necessary to raise questions about the accuracy of the election’s outcome due voter fraud. While this theory has largely been debunked due to lack of evidence, Trump continues to cite a 2012 Pew Center report which states that around 24 million voter registrations in the U.S. are either invalid or are very inaccurate. It is important to note, however, that the study does not state that those registered have actually committed fraud, only that there is potential for it. Influential politicians from both parties have condemned his comments, yet the rigging claims continue to affect worried voters.
Due to these concerns, the Russian government has recently stepped in with an offer to monitor polling stations on Election Day. Many feel this effort is laughable because of the widespread belief that Russia is trying to interfere in the elections. U.S. intelligence officials have recently accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Convention and releasing the emails to WikiLeaks. Still, it should be noted that they have not presented any evidence, only stating that the hacks are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russia’s directed efforts. This leaves voters in the dark as to whether Russia is in fact trying to manipulate the outcome of the election in favor of Trump, as Hillary Clinton has repeatedly suggested, or if it is coming from an entirely different source.
WikiLeaks has been actively involved in this election, publishing thousands of emails that have been hurtful to the Clinton campaign. More conspiracy theories have been created now that WikiLeaks director Julian Assange has had his internet connection terminated by the government of Ecuador, where he is living and seeking asylum. The president of Ecuador is a known Clinton supporter and may have done this to prevent angering Clinton if she becomes president. Assange has even accused Secretary of State John Kerry of urging Ecuador to get involved. The State Department has denied this claim. Still, WikiLeaks continues to maintain that Hillary Clinton will win because the media is in her pocket.
Trump wholeheartedly agrees with this assessment, recently putting out his own statement about media conglomerates trying to influence Americans against him. While this is the norm for the Trump campaign, his comments have become more specific and pointed. Trump’s campaign published a press release on October 23 entitled “Statement On Monopoly Power Of New Media Conglomerates” which made bold claims, like accusing major media organizations of supporting Clinton due to parent corporations that are benefited by shipping American jobs to China and Mexico. The release talked about the possible AT&T merger with Time Warner, stating, “AT&T, the original and abusive ‘Ma Bell’ telephone monopoly, is now trying to buy Time Warner and thus the wildly anti-Trump CNN. Donald Trump would never approve such a deal because it concentrates too much power in the hands of the too and powerful few.” It also stated that “The New York Times strings are being pulled by Mexico’s Carlos Slim, a billionaire who benefits from NAFTA and supports Hillary Clinton’s open border policies.” The press release vows that Trump will break up the conglomerates due to unfair coverage. While a recent Media Research Center Study has shown that 91% of Trump media coverage has been hostile, there is no proof that this is not simply because his antics make for good reporting.
These are only a few of the theories being tossed around by the media, the campaigns, and the American people. As election day edges closer, voters are becoming increasingly paranoid and must attempt to distinguish fact from fabrication.