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Why Election Officials Say Rigging a National Election is Unlikely

Most officials that oversee the state-run elections are Republicans.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the KI Convention Center on October 17, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. / AFP PHOTO / Tasos KatopodisTASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty ImagesTASOS KATOPODIS / AFP - Getty Images

Donald Trump continued to insist Monday that there is "large scale voter fraud" happening in the 2016 presidential election. At a rally in Wisconsin, he claimed that undocumented immigrants and deceased voters might cast votes that tilt the election.

The "rigged" assertion is one that his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, delicately addressed Monday in a way that would take the threat of election rigging seriously without repeating Trump's baseless claims, encouraging voters in Ohio to "do all you can to respectfully participate in the process and ensure the outcome" is one "we can all be proud of.”

But it’s not the message Pence and other Trump supporters were sending out after several days that saw the GOP nominee loudly proclaim that the election is being “rigged” against him. Their message has been that it’s the media that is tipping the scales against Trump.

“We will absolutely accept the result of the election,” Pence said on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “But the American people are tired of the obvious bias in the national media,” he added. “What he’s really talking about is how 80 to 85 percent of the media is against him,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani contended on Sunday’s “Today” show.

Related: More 'Rigged' Talk in Trump Ethics Speech

Indeed, for Republicans officials across the nation, talk of a “rigged” system could be construed as an attack against the party itself in many important cases.

Each state runs its own elections, creating a decentralized system that includes up to 9,000 different voting jurisdictions that use different machines and different tabulation methods, making widespread fraud difficult.

And the system, in most states, is in partisan hands, but this year it would theoretically benefit Trump. Most officials who run state election systems are appointed by governors or elected, and of the nine main battleground states, only two are overseen by Democrats – Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. The others -- Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio -- are overseen by Republicans. Virginia's election board is nonpartisan.

Related: Trump's 'Rigged Elections' Claims Raise Historical Alarms

Ohio Secretary of State, Jon Husted, said he has not heard of any widespread voter fraud.

“The idea of widespread voter fraud would require some systemic problem in our system. So if there is some systemic problem please identify, don’t just make an allegation on Twitter,” he said Monday on CNN.

In an unprecedented move, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has invited states to ask the federal government for help in securing their systems. He said 18 states have asked for assistance.

Johnson became involved not because of Trump's claims, however, but because Democrats, including Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, have raised concerns about the threat of Russia - or a Russian sponsored entity - hacking into the U.S. election system.

Johnson has sought to ease fears of widespread tampering that would alter the outcome of the election.

"It would be very hard to alter a ballot count in a national election to change the vote tally just because our election system is so decentralized," Johnson said on NBC's "Meet the Press" in August.

Still, Trump is only feeding into people's distrust of the system - and others. When he is in rural Pennsylvania, he often puts the spotlight on Philadelphia, the most populous part of the battleground state that is predominantly Democratic with a large number of African American voters.

“I just hear such reports about Philadelphia, and we have to make sure we're protected,” Trump said in more rural Wilkes-Barre last week. “I hear these horror shows, I hear these horror shows, and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us. And everybody knows what I'm talking about.”

And in Altoona in August, Trump said, “To down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.”

Nearly 60 voting precincts in Philadelphia, most of them in African America neighborhoods, registered no votes for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 against President Barack Obama, leading some to suggest voter fraud, which was never substantiated.