City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito tore into both President-elect Donald Trump and outgoing Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin for their baseless allegations of widespread fraudulent voting—and called it a sign that the Republican Party is plotting to suppress turnout.
After Hillary Clinton agreed to partake in a election audits with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein,Trump ripped the two women and claimed that his popular vote loss was due only to “millions of people” casting ballots illegally. Clinton and Stein acted in response to reports that Russian hackers might have tampered with electronic voting machines, while Trump appears to have been relying on bulletins from discredited conspiracy theory site Infowars.
“He’s lying,” Mark-Viverito, a prominent Clinton supporter and surrogate, snapped as the Observer asked her about Trump’s voter fraud claims. “The news want to talk about allegations, it’s outright lies and it has to be reported as outright lies. And what he’s doing is undermining our democratic process and it’s a prelude to what I believe is going to be continued voter suppression efforts by the Republicans.”
And a little over a week ago, the Manhattan Democratic Party held an emergency meeting to nominate a replacement for Schulkin, who sparked controversy in October after a conservative nonprofit caught him on hidden camera alleging that voter fraud is rampant in New York City’s minority neighborhoods.
“And he’s lying, too,” Mark-Viverito said abruptly before the Observer finished asking her about her thoughts on his claims.
Schulkin obtained his Board of Elections post two years ago thanks to the support of Manhattan members of Mark-Viverito’s Progressive Caucus.
The candid video’s release conveniently coincided with Trump’s campaign trail assertions that he faced “a rigged election,” due to what he claimed were millions of ineligible individuals pulling levers at the polls. Neither Trump nor Schulkin have ever presented any evidence for their claims, and Democrats have long cited studies indicating fraudulent voting is rare.
Indeed, Mark-Viverito—who has repeatedly attacked Trump on Twitter and claimed he has placed the country in a “state of emergency”—pointed to the expansion of “anti-democratic” voter identification laws in Republican-run states. Critics complain that these laws, which require people to show government-issued I.D.s before casting a vote, target Democratic-leaning minorities and poor people, who are less likely to possess such credentials.
A federal court struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law for precisely that reason, alleging the Republicans who crafted it targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”
Mark-Viverito also warned that Trump’s selection of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General is an indicator of the types of choices he will make as president. Allegations that Sessions spoke positively about the Ku Klux Klan, referred to a black prosecutor as “boy” and called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as “un-American” derailed his nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986 under then-President Ronald Reagan.
“What I think he’s doing is being explicitly clear, right, about what he intends to do,” Mark-Viverito continued. “And when you talk about a Sessions being considered as attorney general, he’s making it explicitly clear what his intent is and that is to continue to support that kind of sets of laws and policies across this country. We can’t stand for that.”
And Clinton’s participation in a recount isn’t cause for concern about the integrity of elections in New York City and the country, Mark-Viverito added.
“That is what we should be concerned about,” she said. “If you can point to me in terms of specific examples here in the city of New York or others where people have voted illegally even if there is any example of it, it would probably be minuscule, it would probably be just [be] a blip on the radar.”
City Republicans have pointed to a 2013 Department of Investigations probe that found test subjects were able to gain access to voting booths by misrepresenting their identities.
The speaker also said she was concerned about the amount of money and resources the city is spending to provide security at Trump Tower—which is reportedly costing the city more than $1 million a day. She noted that Trump has threatened to defund the city “and yet we continue to be picking up the ab.”
“I have serious concerns with regards to the amount of resources that the city is spending on a daily basis for additional security,” she said.
Trump, for his part, recently snapped at CNN for reported his latest voter fraud claims as false, even retweeting a 16-year-old Twitter user who claimed that CNN chief correspondent Jeff Zeleny that he doesn’t have sufficient evidence that Trump “did not suffer from voter fraud.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.