Fact check: Republican National Committee falsely cites turnout increases as evidence of fraud

It has also joined Trump in using laughably weak supposed evidence to make the case. Specifically, it is baselessly arguing that increases in voter turnout are a sign that something nefarious happened.

RNC national spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington has made numerous false or misleading claims since Election Day, groundlessly alleging that Democrats are trying to steal the election and that Joe Biden cannot possibly have legitimately earned more votes than Barack Obama. On Tuesday, her Twitter feed became especially absurd.

Harrington posted a series of tweets in which she argued that the fact that Biden received more votes in some staunchly Democratic urban counties than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 is itself suggestive of fraud.

This is, frankly, ridiculous.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud anywhere in the country, including in the counties Harrington highlighted. Increased voter participation is not a sign that something shady took place.

And Harrington was both cherry-picking and misusing data — omitting numbers that are inconvenient to her case, and inaccurately describing others.

1) Turnout was up nationally — in both Democratic-leaning and Republican-leaning states and counties.

In other words, there was nothing remotely unusual about Biden increasing his vote totals in the particular counties in which Harrington pointedly mentioned that Biden had improved on Clinton’s vote totals. Because more people voted in general, both for Biden and for Trump, Biden improved on Clinton’s vote totals in most of the country — even in counties he lost handily.

More than 152 million votes had been counted in the 2020 election as of Tuesday, according to the Cook Political Report. This incomplete Tuesday figure was already an increase of more than 15 million votes from 2016.

2) Biden made bigger percentage gains in key suburban counties around Milwaukee and Detroit than he did in the urban counties themselves.

Harrington noted that Biden had earned 9.8% more votes in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, than Clinton did. But that isn’t remarkable at all; Biden made far bigger gains in some nearby counties. In adjacent Waukesha County, a Republican-dominated suburban area west of Milwaukee that Trump carried in both 2016 and 2020, Biden earned about 31% more votes than Clinton did (as of Tuesday; all totals may change before they are certified). Biden also beat Clinton’s vote total by about 31% in Ozaukee County, a Republican-dominated county north of Milwaukee.

In her thread, Harrington did not mention Biden’s performance in Waukesha or Ozaukee.

She did highlight Biden’s 13% increase over Clinton’s vote total in reliably Democratic Wayne County, Michigan, which includes Detroit — a city that has been one of the central targets of Trump allies’ baseless fraud accusations. She did not, however, note that Biden had improved by more than 26%, as of Tuesday, over Clinton’s vote total in adjacent Oakland County, a suburban county to the north that was carried by both Clinton and Biden but is more politically divided than Wayne County. Similarly, Harrington omitted the fact that Biden gained about 23% over Clinton’s total in Monroe County to the immediate south of Wayne County, which Trump carried in both elections.

3) In the Detroit area, Trump’s increase in votes between 2020 and 2016 was actually bigger, in percentage terms, than Biden’s increase.

Harrington wants people to think it is suspicious that Biden got 13% more votes than Clinton in Wayne County, Michigan. But Trump improved in the county by even more than Biden did: his 2020 total was more than 15% higher than his 2016 total there.

Votes in New York and Illinois

This was not the end of Harrington’s dishonesty in the Twitter thread.

Trying to bolster her argument that there was something suspicious about Biden’s performance in certain urban counties, Harrington claimed that “these surges did not happen for Biden in other Dem strongholds” in which she baselessly suggested vote-counting was more fair.

She then cited some cases in which Biden supposedly got far fewer votes than Clinton. But these tweets, too, were highly misleading — because she was comparing final 2016 vote totals for Clinton to partial 2020 vote totals for Biden.

Take Harrington’s tweet about Manhattan, New York. She posted a New York Times screenshot showing Clinton’s 2016 vote total there, 579,013, and a Times screenshot showing Biden’s total as 377,605. Citing these two numbers, she declared: “Biden LOST 201,408 votes.”

But Harrington’s own tweet shows why this calculation is invalid. In the 2020 screenshot she posted, the Times noted that its Manhattan figures at the time were with just “60% of estimated votes reported.” In other words, thousands and thousands of Manhattan votes had not yet been added to Biden’s total.

Harrington made the same kind of claim — “Biden LOST 104,827 votes”– about Queens, New York, which had just 63% of estimated 2020 votes reported at the time of Harrington’s tweet.
And she also made the claim about Cook County, Illinois, where Chicago is located, saying that “Biden LOST 228,630 votes” even though the county had just 78% of estimated 2020 votes reported.

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