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Fact check: Breaking down the barrage of false election claims from Trump and his allies


The President was no more factual on Thursday. As of 4 PM, Twitter had affixed a fact-check warning label to three of his tweets that day, making it nine labels since Wednesday. Trump’s allies also flooded the zone with so much misinformation that it was hard to know where a fact checker should begin.

We won’t get into a Thursday media event during which Trump surrogates, such as former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, made a series of unproven allegations about voting in Nevada.

Ballots accepted after Election Day

Trump tweeted, “ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!”

Facts First: This is false. Twenty-two states, plus the District of Columbia, are accepting ballots that arrive after Election Day — as long as they arrive by a certain date after Election Day and were postmarked by Election Day (or, in some cases, by a certain date before Election Day). States that accept these ballots include Mississippi, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Ohio and West Virginia — all of which are governed by Republicans and all of which were won by Trump both in 2016 and 2020. (I know it’s just projections at this point in 2020, but they’re all clear victories.)

Ballots from members of the military are among those that will be counted even if they arrive after Election Day.

Trump might perhaps have been attempting to make a prediction — that, say, Republicans would win legal challenges to state rules on accepting ballots — but his statement sounded like an official proclamation.

The legitimacy of the votes

Trump said in an all-caps statement that his campaign emailed to reporters: “IF YOU COUNT THE LEGAL VOTES, I EASILY WIN THE ELECTION! IF YOU COUNT THE ILLEGAL AND LATE VOTES, THEY CAN STEAL THE ELECTION FROM US!”

Facts First: That is, again, just false. Nobody is trying to “steal” the election. Votes are simply being counted.

Trump was vague here about what he meant by “late,” but the only votes being counted are those cast by voters who met their states’ deadlines for mailing their ballots — which is, in every case, Election Day or before.

Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania

Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House and a Trump ally, tweeted, “It is increasingly clear that Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania are all being stolen by Democrats and the research is almost certainly going to yield far more votes stolen than Biden’s current margins.”

Facts First: Like Trump’s claim of election theft, Gingrich’s claim is patently false. There is no basis for the claim that Democrats are stealing the election in any state.

The conduct of states in general

Trump tweeted, “All of the recent Biden claimed States will be legally challenged by us for Voter Fraud and State Election Fraud. Plenty of proof – just check out the Media.”

Facts First: There is no proof of any widespread voter fraud in states Biden is believed to have won. And there is no proof of any state committing any kind of election fraud at all.

It’s certainly possible that some cases of voter fraud will eventually emerge; there are often a smattering of cases after presidential elections. But all of the evidence from previous presidential elections shows that voter fraud is exceedingly rare, representing a minuscule percentage of votes cast.

The ballots in Pennsylvania

Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general who has been one of the public faces of the Trump campaign’s post-Election Day legal effort, claimed on the Fox News show “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning that there are “fake ballots” in Pennsylvania that are “coming in late,” after Election Day.

When “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy asked Bondi if she had just said “fake ballots,” Bondi responded, “There could be, that’s the problem.” When Doocy asked for specifics, she did not provide any.

Facts First: There is simply no evidence of “fake ballots” in Pennsylvania. There is nothing fake about ballots that arrive after Election Day.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled in September that ballots can be accepted if they arrive as late as Friday, three days after Election Day, so long as they are postmarked by Election Day (or do not have a legible postmark but the “preponderance of the evidence” does not prove they were mailed after Election Day).
The US Supreme Court in October allowed the Pennsylvania court’s decision to stand at least temporarily, declining to immediately block the decision.
During the state’s vote count, Pennsylvania officials have been segregating ballots received after Election Day from all other ballots in case the courts later decide to invalidate them.

The vote count

Hogan Gidley, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, tweeted: “Ever notice how no one ever… …all of a sudden… …out of nowhere… …at the exact time they’re needed… ‘finds’ ballots FOR Republicans?”
Facts First: This conspiratorial innuendo is baseless. Democrats were gaining ground at the time in some key states, such as Pennsylvania and Georgia, because some mail votes were being counted last, and more Democrats than Republicans voted by mail. There is nothing nefarious about this counting order — and it’s worth noting that mail votes in Pennsylvania could have been counted sooner if Republican state legislators had not rejected a proposal to start the process earlier.

Moreover, Republicans have made gains over time in some states where the counting process is different. In Florida, where counties were allowed to count votes as soon as they received mail ballots, Joe Biden jumped out to what ended up being a mirage of a big lead on election night, but Trump overtook him after in-person votes were counted.

And at the time of Gidley’s tweet, Trump had also been gaining in Arizona — shrinking Biden’s initial margin just as the former vice president had eaten into Trump’s margin elsewhere.

Counting after Election Day

It’s also worth addressing two of the claims White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany made on Fox News on Wednesday night. One of them was another complaint about the vote count in Pennsylvania.

“We have election days in this country for a reason, because votes are counted on Election Day,” McEnany said.

Facts First: This is misleading at best. While many votes are counted on Election Day, some votes are always counted afterward. While media outlets sometimes project a winner on Election Day, those media “calls” are not official.

The 2012 election and Philadelphia

McEnany repeated a conspiracy theory Trump has floated about Philadelphia’s voting in the 2012 election between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. She claimed that there were “59 different precincts where Mitt Romney got precisely zero votes, which is very unlikely and curious indeed.”
Facts First: There is no basis for the suggestion that Romney’s performance in Philadelphia is suspicious. Romney got 96,467 Philadelphia votes, about 14% of the city total. Romney did get zero votes in 50 of the city’s 1,687 voting “divisions,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer — initial reports used the “59” figure McEnany cited — but these neighborhoods were overwhelmingly populated by Black residents, and Romney was running against the first Black president. Even Republican leaders in the city have said there is no basis to claim the results in the 50 divisions are evidence of fraud.

Voter identification

Grenell suggested Democratic opposition to certain voter identification practices was a way they were trying to illegally obtain votes in their favor.

In a tweet retweeted more than 16,000 times, including by Donald Trump Jr., Grenell wrote, “Democrats have always been against showing an ID in order to vote. Now we know why. They want to count illegal votes. Demand we count only LEGAL votes.”

Facts First: Grenell’s tweet was misleading on several fronts. Democrats have not “always” been against showing identification in order to vote, and there is no evidence they “want to count illegal votes.”

There are several situations in which casting a ballot without showing an ID would be legal, specifically in the 15 states (plus Washington, DC) that rely on other forms of voter verification. In the rest of the states, voters are required to present some form of identification before casting ballots.

In Michigan, voters are asked to present photo IDs. However, in the case that a voter is unable to produce one, the voter may sign an affidavit that they are not in possession of a photo ID and may vote on a regular ballot.

It is true that most Democrats have been against stricter voter-ID laws in the past, but on grounds that these laws could disenfranchise voters who may not have access to necessary identification — not in order to illegally obtain votes.

Republicans have wielded this Democratic position on voter ID laws to paint Democrats as complicit in election fraud despite the fact that voter fraud is exceedingly rare — and that even states that don’t require ID have other methods to prevent fraud, like signature checks.




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