Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is urging Missouri supporters to sign up as “volunteer election observers” to help keep Democrats and the mainstream media from “stealing this election.”
Trump has spent months stoking concerns that the election is rigged in favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But in the days since a tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault was made public, and with a growing list of women stepping forward saying he assaulted them, Trump has doubled down on the idea. He tweeted Sunday that the election is being rigged by a “dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary — but also at many polling places — SAD.”
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Aaron Willard, Trump’s Missouri state director, warned supporters in an email last week that “Crooked Hillary will say and do anything it takes to win this election, and that is something we must not allow to happen!”
Willard — who also serves as chief of staff to Republican state Sen. Ryan Silvey of Kansas City — noted that there have been peculiarities in Missouri elections this year.
There were ballot shortages in some Missouri precincts during the Republican primary, as well as a do-over election in a Democratic primary that featured allegations of absentee voter fraud.
“Don’t sit idly by,” Willard wrote, “and let Crooked Hillary Clinton steal the election for the White House!”
Todd Abrajano, spokesman for Trump’s Missouri campaign, said names collected by the campaign will be turned over to the state party, which will conduct training and help direct volunteers to local election authorities.
“We’re not trying to just send people in to hang out in polling places,” Abrajano said. “These will be official and trained election observers.”
Over the weekend, Trump faced a barrage of criticism by both Republicans and Democrats for his repeated allegations that the election is rigged.
Former U.S. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican, told Politico that making allegations with no evidence “isn’t going to cut it.” U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement over the weekend saying he is “fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity.”
Many worry Trump’s rhetoric could inflame some of his supporters and lead to violence at the polls on Election Day.
Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, said Sunday on Meet the Press that the Republican ticket will “absolutely accept the result of the election. The American people will speak in an election that will culminate on Nov. 8. But the American people are tired of the obvious bias in the national media.”
In a tweet Monday morning, Trump responded to Republican criticism.
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” Trump wrote. “Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”
Allegations of voter fraud in Missouri aren’t new. In fact, they have been used to fuel a push by Republicans to require voters to provide a government-issued photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot. After a decade of trying to implement a voter ID law, the question will be put to voters in November.
If approved, Missouri’s constitution will be amended to allow a photo ID requirement to vote — a necessary step because voter ID laws have been deemed unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court. Critics of the idea say there has never been an instance in Missouri of voter fraud that could have been prevented by a voter ID law, and argue that the law will only serve to disenfranchise certain eligible voters.