Fact Check: Debunking Donald Trump’s Claims About Voter Fraud
In a video, the president repeated numerous false and debunked claims about the election.
|Alec Dent||Dec 24, 2020||55||12|
President Donald Trump released a video on Tuesday, in which he explains why he thinks he actually won the 2020 presidential election. “The truth is we won the election by a landslide, we won it big,” said Trump of an election President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 7 million votes and 74 electoral votes.
In the video, Trump claims that after early returns showed him ahead in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, “a series of massive and statistically inconceivable vote dumps” swung the states to Biden. He stated: “At 6:31 a.m., very early in the morning, Michigan suddenly reported 147,224 votes. 94 percent for Biden, 6 percent for Trump. At 4:42 a.m. Wisconsin reported 143,279 votes, almost all of them for Biden. A similar massive drop of ballots happened in Georgia at 1:34 a.m., again almost all of these votes for Biden.”
The Michigan ballots have already been addressed in a past fact check: Michigan did not suddenly report 147,224 ballots, with 94 percent, or, more precisely 138,339 ballots, going to Biden. A nonpartisan election news outlet, Decision Desk HQ, reported a typo in election data, reporting 153,710 Biden votes in one county instead of 15,371.
The error was quickly caught and corrected. As Khaya Himmelman noted in her fact check on the matter: “It’s important to stress, too, that all this was purely clerical—a data entry hiccup, not in ballot counting itself. No new ballots were ‘found.’”
Wisconsin did see a jump of around 140,000 Biden votes, thanks to the overwhelmingly Democratic 170,000 absentee ballots reported by Milwaukee County. Leading up to the election, Trump heavily criticized voting by mail leading up to the election, resulting in disproportionately more Democrats than Republicans choosing to vote by mail this year.
Trump offers scant detail on his Georgia claim, but his reference to 1:34 a.m. suggests that he’s referring to the viral and debunked voter analysis that suggests a vote dump of 136,155 votes for Biden and 29,115 votes for Trump took place at that time in Georgia. As other fact checkers have noted, the large number of ballots for Biden is no surprise: mail-in ballots, which, again, were predominantly Democratic, were being counted by that time. A hand recount of Georgia’s votes affirmed Biden’s win and didn’t find evidence of widespread fraud.
Trump also claimed that he had “received the largest share of non-white voters of any Republican in over 60 years.” He didn’t. Exit polls show that Trump won 26 percent of the minority vote, an improvement from his 2016 showing—he won 21 percent that year—but still beaten as recently as 2004 by President George W. Bush, who won 28 percent of the non-white voting population.
Trump also claimed that, “Officials in virtually every key swing state brazenly violated their own state laws in order to change election procedures, eliminate safeguards, promote fraud, and illegally benefit Joe Biden.” For examples, he cited Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, whom Trump said suspended signature verification requirements; the Michigan secretary of state, whom Trump said “flooded” the state with absentee ballot applications; and the Georgia secretary of state, whom Trump claimed “illegally” processed ballots before Election Day and destroyed the signature verification system.
Trump is correct that Pennsylvania’s secretary of state issued guidance prohibiting the disqualification of mail-in ballots with signatures that don’t match up with what’s on a voter’s registration form. This decision was made on the basis that such comparisons are subjective and could possibly disenfranchise voters, a move that was backed up unanimously by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Similarly, an appeals court in Michigan upheld its secretary of state’s decision to send out unsolicited applications for absentee ballots. Trump is also correct that Georgia law prohibits tabulating ballots before Election Day. But this didn’t occur in Georgia: The state board of elections passed an emergency rule allowing mail-in ballots to be opened and scanned, but not tabulated, before Election Day. Georgia still requires signature verification, but was involved in a recent failed lawsuit from the Georgia Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the campaigns of Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The lawsuit was brought in an attempt to require the state to have signatures verified by three election workers instead of one.
Trump argued that “The absentee ballot rejection rates prove that hundreds of thousands of illegitimate ballots were counted in the key states. … In 2016, 6.4 percent of mail-in ballots were rejected in Georgia. This year, fewer than a tiny percentage of 1 percent were rejected.” Trump is partially correct: In 2016 Georgia rejected 6.4 percent of mail-in ballots. And in 2020, that number decreased, though to about 1 percent, not a tiny percentage of 1 percent. Georgia also saw a lower percent rejection rate in 2018, when the state rejected 3.1 percent of mail-in ballots.
Trump stated that similar low numbers occurred in other states, including Pennsylvania, and that “The only possible explanation is that tens of thousands of ballots were unlawfully processed and counted.”
Experts credit a number of factors for the lower rejection rate. State governments across the country ended requirements that confused voters. Minnesota, for example, does not require a witness for absentee ballot signatures any longer. Increased attention to voting by mail this year may have also led to voters being more knowledgeable about how to properly fill out their ballots. Ballot curing—the process of reaching out to voters with mistakes on their ballots to correct them—is also thought to have played a role. Trump is correct that 2020 saw lower rejection rates on absentee ballots, but he is incorrect that the only possible explanation is unlawful handling of ballots.
Trump also said that security footage in one Georgia poll location “shows officials telling poll watchers to leave the room before pulling suitcases of ballots out from under the tables and continuing to count for hours. The reason they were forced to leave the room, as they said, there was a major water main break. The water main break never happened, there was no water main break.”
Georgia's voting implementation manager, Gabriel Sterling, has said that no poll watchers were forced to leave the room. Surveillance footage shows that a water leak did occur, but Trump appears to be conflating two separate incidents. The leak occurred around 6 a.m. on November 3, while the video Trump describes happened around 10:15 p.m. November 3. Sterling says that the poll watchers and the poll workers left out of confusion over what time they were allowed to stop. The poll workers returned after being informed of their mistake, and the poll watchers returned about 80 minutes later. Security cameras were running the entire time. The “suitcases” were not suitcases but ballot-storing boxes like the ones used in previous elections.
From there, Trump moved on to “the deeply troubling matter of Dominion Voting Systems.” Trump and his team have made a number of unsubstantiated and debunked claims about the voting machine company. In this latest video, Trump stated: “In just one Michigan county alone, 6,000 ballots were switched from Trump to Biden.” Trump claimed no satisfactory answer has been given for why Dominion voting machines can “switch votes with the mere push of a button.” They can’t. Trump is referring to Antrim County, in which a county clerk, not Dominion voting machines, was at fault for the unofficial miscount. The Michigan secretary of state’s office noted that the 6,000 vote switch occurred only in unofficial results calculated using a software program that combines the vote counts from tabulators. The clerk forgot to update the software, and the program miscalculated the results. The true results were accurately reflected on the Dominion tabulators themselves, and even if the error had not been realized early on, it would have been caught during the county canvass, when two Democrats and two Republicans from the Board of County Canvassers reviewed the printed totals from each tabulator. No evidence of Dominion machines switching or deleting votes has been unearthed.
Despite what Trump and many of his allies have claimed, there is no evidence that the election was subject to widespread fraud, with even Attorney General William Barr saying twice now that there is no reason to doubt the outcome of the election.
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