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August 08, 2016

Philly election inspector debunks Sean Hannity's 2012 conspiracy theory

Ryan Godfrey takes to Twitter over Trump's wider 'rigging' claims

Fox News commentator and radio host Sean Hannity isn't quite through instigating in Philadelphia after his much-publicized Wawa imbroglio during the Democratic National Convention. This time around, he got himself a piece of a local election inspector.

Hannity ranks among the conservatives who have latched onto Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's warning that the 2016 election — and the media's coverage of it — will be rigged against him.

"And I'm telling you, November 8, we'd better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged," Trump recently told Hannity in one of several references to presumed voter fraud. "And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it's going to be taken away from us."

As Trump's assertion spread far and wide, CNN host Brian Stelter ran a segment reviewing reactions from many who immediately dismissed the notion as preposterous. Hannity, Stelter said, should have pressed Trump for evidence of probable voter fraud.

That's when Hannity dug up a 2012 article from the Philadelphia Inquirer highlighting Mitt Romney's absolute strikeout against Barack Obama in 59 of the city's voting divisions. The GOP candidate didn't receive a single recorded vote in any of those divisions, which together account for about 3.5 percent of Philadelphia's 1,687 ward subsets.

"These are the kind of numbers that send Republicans into paroxysms of voter-fraud angst," the Inquirer noted at the time, "but such results may not be so startling after all."

When examined the claim in 2013, it noted that the outcome in those divisions was not a "mathematical and statistical impossibility," as some Romney supporters argued.

Bothered by the accusation, Philadelphia election inspector Ryan Godfrey took to Twitter to destroy Hannity's argument in 24 tweets. (Disclaimer: Tweets contain some explicit language.)

As NPR points out, Trump isn't exactly the first politician to allege voter fraud. In 2008, John McCain suggested the same forces were at work for Obama under the aegis of ACORN. Going back to 2000, we all remember the Supreme Court's decision to halt a labyrinthine Florida recount and rule George W. Bush POTUS. Even in 1996, Bob Dole accused Bill Clinton of trying to grant legal status to immigrants just in time for the election. 

Hillary Clinton's campaign has characterized Trump's "pathetic" remarks as a threat to the peaceful political transitions on which American democracy depends, no matter who wins and loses. 

Others have contended that the "rigging" occurred throughout the Democratic primary process by shutting out Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

But in the general election? As Ari Berman examines in detail for The Washington Post, Trump's fear that loose voter ID laws will sway the results is based on a premise that federal courts have just struck down in six states. 

"The real threat of election-rigging lies not in the small number of voting irregularities, which Trump and many Republicans have blown wildly out of proportion," Berman writes, "but in the much larger number of people disenfranchised by new voting restrictions."