Allegations of election fraud and new evidence that the Democratic National Committee may have been working with Hillary Clinton to help defeat Bernie Sanders has left a muddled future for Democrats, threatening a major rift among voters just as the party seemed to be coming together against Donald Trump.
Bernie Sanders supporters have long made claims that Hillary Clinton or the DNC have been engaging in election fraud against the Vermont Senator. They pointed to a drastic slash in polling places in Arizona and mysterious voter purges in New York, along with exit polling that they believed pointed toward fraud benefiting Clinton.
These claims have grown in intensity as the primary season came to a close and Hillary Clinton was declared the presumptive nominee on the strength of her massive lead in both pledged and superdelegates. And there are signs of more potential trouble for the Clinton campaign.
A hacking attack from someone known as “Guccifer 2” led to the release of many sensitive DNC documents, including opposition research on Donald Trump. The release also showed correspondence within the DNC that appeared to show coordination with Hillary Clinton’s campaign from the day she officially announced her candidacy, seeming to give credence to the theory that the DNC has been tilted against Bernie Sanders in the primary.
The revelation comes just as allegations of election fraud have ramped up. The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity filed a lawsuit alleging that in 11 states, there was a “significant difference between the Edison Research exit polls and the electronic vote totals presented on the morning after the primaries.”
There may not be much actual substance to the allegations of election fraud, however. While a number of conspiracy theory sites have pushed the idea that exit polls show massive fraud, experts point out that this is a misinterpretation of exit polls in the United States. In other nations, exit polls are used as a check against election results, with even a small percentage of difference pointing to potential fraud and sometimes triggering an automatic re-vote.
But exit polling in the United States is much different. In other nations, exit polling consists only of one question, asking voters who they cast their ballot for. Exit polling in the United States is paid for by the media, and used to reveal information about voter demographics. These polls are much more time-intensive, leading them to favor voters who are younger, native English speakers, and more enthusiastic about their candidate. This tends to favor the more liberal candidate, as it did for Barack Obama in 2008 and again for Bernie Sanders in 2016.
Legal experts also say they expect the election fraud lawsuit to be thrown out based on the misinterpretation of exit polling and a lack of evidence implicating Hillary Clinton or the DNC, but the damage may go beyond this. A growing number of Bernie Sanders supporters have decided to abandon Clinton completely, vowing not to vote for the Democratic nominee.
Many others are calling on Bernie Sanders to mount a third-party run for the White House, with more than 100,000 signing a petition imploring him to run as an independent.
So, while there may not be much substance to the allegations of election fraud against Hillary Clinton, the issue could be very real to Democrats as they look to come together in a united front to defeat Donald Trump. That could make the next few weeks a very important period, as Clinton and the DNC must reach out to Sanders supporters and Sanders himself to ease the tensions and ensure a spot in the party for his supporters.
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