The top election official in Kansas is echoing Donald Trump’s concerns that the upcoming presidential election could be stolen.
The Republican presidential nominee has been warning in recent weeks that the election will be rigged, a claim that has been widely disputed by election experts and officials from both parties who say that there is little evidence.
During the presidential debate Wednesday night, Trump said millions of people are registered to vote nationwide who shouldn’t be. Moderator Chris Wallace pressed Trump on whether he would accept the results of the election, but the candidate wouldn’t commit.
“What I’m saying is: I’ll tell you at the time,” Trump told Wallace. “I will keep you in suspense.”
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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an early endorser and adviser to Trump, says he thinks enough noncitizens are registered to vote in swing states that it could tip the balance of the presidential election.
“You look at how close the Florida election was in 2000,” Kobach said, referencing the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, which came down to about 500 votes.
“I think there’s no question that the number of aliens registered to vote in Florida is probably in the tens of thousands and the number voting is probably going to be in the thousands, so I think there’s a very real risk that a battleground state could be decided by noncitizens voting,” Kobach said.
Florida’s elections are overseen by a Republican secretary of state, who was appointed by the state’s Republican governor, a Trump supporter.
Kobach said he does not think there will be any conspiracy by election officials to rig the election, but that the system is vulnerable to fraud. He said one of the things he is “most concerned about is aliens being manipulated (into voting) and not even realizing that someone is asking them to break the law.”
The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the 30 cases of noncitizens registering to vote in Kansas prior to the state’s adoption of a proof of citizenship requirement “fall well short of the showing necessary to rebut the presumption” that voters are citizens when they attest to that fact on their registration forms.
Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said “all of the evidence of noncitizen voting shows that it is a very small problem.”
Kobach often points to Sedgwick County in support of his claims about noncitizen voting. Eleven noncitizens registered to vote in Sedgwick County between 2003 and 2010. Three cast a ballot; all but one of them have since become naturalized citizens, according to documents from Kobach’s office.
Another 14 have attempted to register to vote but were blocked from doing so since the state adopted its proof of citizenship requirement in 2013, according to the same documents.
“Despite all of Kobach’s rhetoric for the last decade, noncitizen voting has consistently been found to be a very small problem,” Hasen said. “This is more about Kobach promoting his own agenda, his own anti-immigration and voter fraud agenda, than it is about any real problem with how we run our elections.”
Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said it is “beyond belief that the top election official in Kansas would cast doubt on the legitimacy of elections in this country.”
“He of all people should understand that faith in the democratic process is a key component for a successful democracy,” Ward said. “Donald Trump’s not losing the election because it’s fixed. Donald Trump’s losing the election because he’s far and away the worst major party candidate for president in the last 75 years.”
FiveThirtyEight, a website that predicts election results based on polling data, gave Clinton an 86.2 percent chance of winning the election as of Thursday morning based on data from all 50 states.
The site gives Trump an 88.1 percent chance of winning Kansas’ six electoral votes, but shows Clinton winning in the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina.
Hasen said Kobach helped lay the groundwork for Trump to make claims about massive voter fraud.
Kobach has advised Trump on immigration policy but said he has not discussed this issue with the candidate.
Trump has primarily pointed the finger at large cities in swing states with large minority populations and Democratic-leaning electorates, such as Philadelphia and St. Louis, as places where the election could be stolen. Voting rights advocates have raised concerns that this will increase the possibility of voter intimidation in those cities on Election Day.
Kobach defended those comments.
“It’s just a matter of historical fact that some of the most notorious cases of voter fraud in the last century happened to have involved bigger cities,” Kobach said.
Other Republican officials have rebutted Trump’s claims.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who ran against Trump in the primary, said in a debate Tuesday that there’s no evidence to support the claims. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who will oversee that state’s elections, told CNN on Monday that Trump’s rhetoric about election rigging was irresponsible.
Gov. Sam Brownback told reporters on Monday that he has faith in the legitimacy of elections.
“I don’t doubt that there’s problems in some places, but I’ve been on the ballot a lot and I think overall the system operates well,” he said.