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Editorial: Sowing doubt by the millions

Propagandists plotting to undermine confidence in democracy got a huge assist Sunday from President-elect Donald Trump. Striking back at talk about Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote edge, Trump declared via Twitter that he would have won the popular vote, too, “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He went on to say there was “serious voter fraud” in California, Virginia and New Hampshire.

Trump’s claim, so far unsubstantiated, may say more about his penchant for attack and hyperbole than it does about the U.S. election system. Voters in Virginia and New Hampshire are required to show a photo ID, yet Trump knows of widespread fraud? Where is his evidence?

Accusations undermining confidence in our election system have surfaced on the state level, too. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and his allies continue to fight Democrat Roy Cooper’s apparent victory, even though Cooper’s lead has grown almost daily since the election. McCroryites have accused 43 voters of voting illegally as convicted felons. (A review by Democracy North Carolina found 18 of the accused are not serving felony sentences, and four were not serving any sentence at all.) The conservative Civitas Institute filed suit to stop the count until 90,000 same-day registrations are verified. McCrory called for a statewide recount last week, then changed direction and said he would settle for a hand recount in Durham County. Does he really believe an election that went clearly for Republicans at the presidential and U.S. Senate level was somehow tainted when it came to the governor’s race?

In the presidential race. Green Party candidate Jill Stein has called for a recount in three states where Trump won by a narrow margin, and she cited the possibility of hacking interference. The Clinton campaign has agreed to participate in the process. The presidential recount seems like a fool’s errand — a waste of time and money. But Trump’s sudden defensiveness and counter-claim concerning  millions of votes shifts the focus. Does he protest too much?

Give McCrory, Stein and Clinton credit for this — however thin their arguments, they are working within the system to legally confirm the validity of the vote. Trump is simply casting aspersions. It’s his deal-making, say-anything persona, spurred to action by the irritation of losing the popular vote.

Trump has sown doubt about the validity of millions of votes, doubt that could reverberate around the world. Will that cast a shadow on our nation, Donald Trump, the democratic process, or all of the above?

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