AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s claims of vote rigging are all wrong
Clinging to notions of widespread vote rigging that his own attorney general has disputed, President Donald Trump repeated a litany of baseless assertions Wednesday of political corruption, machine tampering and mysterious votes appearing out of nowhere that allowed Joe Biden to steal the election.
“This election is about great voter fraud, fraud that has never been seen like this before,” Trump said in a 46-minute address posted on social media.
“It’s about poll watchers who were not allowed to watch. So illegal. It’s about ballots that poured in and nobody but a few knew where they came from. ... It’s about machinery that was defective, machinery that was stopped.”
None of those assertions are true.
A look at the claims and reality:
TRUMP: “You can’t let another person steal that election from you.”
THE FACTS: To be clear, no election was stolen from Trump.
One month after the Nov. 3 election and as states begin certifying their votes, Trump is clinging to false notions of voter fraud. But others in his administration have already said the election was secure. Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department had seen no evidence of widespread fraud to overturn Biden’s margin of victory.
Biden earned 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, the same margin that Trump had when he beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, which he repeatedly described as a “landslide.” (Trump ended up with 304 electoral votes because two electors defected.) Biden achieved victory by prevailing in key states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia.
Trump’s allegations of massive voting fraud have been refuted by a variety of judges, state election officials and an arm of his own administration’s Homeland Security Department. Many of his campaign’s lawsuits across the country have been thrown out of court. And his administration has already agreed to allow the formal transition of power to Biden to begin.
On Tuesday, Barr told The Associated Press that no proof of widespread voter fraud has been uncovered. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” he said.
No case has established irregularities of a scale that would change the outcome. Lawsuits that remain do not contain evidence that would flip the result.
TRUMP: “I go from winning by a lot to losing a tight race. It’s corrupt.”
TRUMP: “It’s about big leads on election night, tremendous leads, leads where I was being congratulated for a decisive, easy victory, and all of a sudden by morning or a couple of days later, those leads rapidly evaporated.”
THE FACTS: No mass corruption happened. Trump is actually describing a legitimate vote counting process, not a sudden surge of malfeasance that no one has seen before.
Indeed, news organizations and officials had warned in the days and weeks leading up to the election that the results would likely come in just as they did: In-person votes, which tend to be counted more quickly, would likely favor the president, who had spent months warning his supporters to avoid mail-in voting and to vote in person either early or on Election Day.
And mail-in ballots, which take longer to count since they must be removed from envelopes and verified before they are counted, would favor Biden. That pattern was exacerbated by the fact that many states prohibited early counting of mail-in votes that arrived before Election Day.
In addition, big cities are often slower to report their numbers, and those votes tend to skew Democratic. Likewise, many states tend to count mail-in ballots at the end of the process.
TRUMP: “In Wisconsin, as an example, where we were way up on election night, they ultimately had us miraculously losing by 20,000 votes. And I can show you right here that Wisconsin, we’re leading by a lot, and then at 3:42 in the morning, there was this. It was a massive dump of votes. Mostly Biden.”
THE FACTS: No, there wasn’t a “massive dump of votes” in the middle of the night. Milwaukee election officials finished counting the city’s roughly 169,000 absentee ballots around 3 a.m.
Wisconsin law requires the results of those absentee ballots be reported all at once. The count of the absentee ballots was livestreamed on YouTube for anyone to watch. When it was finished, Milwaukee police escorted the city’s elections director from a central counting location to the county courthouse to deliver thumb drives with the ballot data.
TRUMP, on Dominion Voting Systems electoral software used in many states: “When you look at who’s running the company, who’s in charge, who owns it — which we don’t know — where are the votes counted — which we think are counted in foreign countries, not in the United States — Dominion is a disaster.”
THE FACTS: Servers that run Dominion software are in local election offices, not in foreign countries. Claims that the company has foreign servers or ties to Germany or Venezuela are false.
It’s true that the company is privately held and does not disclose its financials, but the New York-based private equity firm Staple Street Capital has owned a majority stake in Dominion since 2018. Fictional claims that Dianne Feinstein, the Clinton family, Nancy Pelosi and Hugo Chavez are owners of Dominion have been debunked.
“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised” in the 2020 election, according to a joint statement released by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
TRUMP: “In one Michigan county, as an example, that used Dominion systems, they found that nearly 6,000 votes had been wrongly switched from Trump to Biden. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is what we caught. How many didn’t we catch?”
THE FACTS: That’s a misrepresentation.
It’s true that a tabulation problem in the 2020 election involved a few thousand votes in Antrim County, Michigan. But that was the result of human error.
When the Republican-leaning county initially reported a landslide win for Biden, social media users grew suspicious about the Dominion election management system used to tabulate the data.
It turned out Dominion was not to blame, according to the Michigan Department of State. “There was no malice, no fraud here, just human error,” County Clerk Sheryl Guy told the AP. The tabulation error was corrected.
Eddie Perez, a voting technology expert at the OSET Institute, a nonpartisan election technology research and development nonprofit, agreed that the Michigan case was the result of human error involving voting technology, not the software itself.
TRUMP: “Dead people — and we have many examples — filled out ballots, made applications and then voted.”
THE FACTS: He’s repeating a false claim of dead people voting, particularly in Pennsylvania and Michigan. But there’s no evidence that this occurred, and officials in both states say the claims are unfounded.
The false claim that deceased voters cast ballots “comes up every election,” said Jason Roberts, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Experts told the AP that it is common for state voter rolls to include voters with birthdates that make them appear impossibly old, but these are usually explained by human error, software quirks or voter confidentiality issues.
“A similar complaint was brought before a PA court — and soundly rejected,” the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General said in a statement. “The court found no deficiency in how PA maintains its voter rolls, and there is currently no proof provided that any deceased person has voted in the 2020 election.”
Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for Michigan’s secretary of state’s office, told the AP that on rare occasions a ballot received from a voter may be recorded as though that person is too old to be alive. This can occur when an incorrect birth year is entered on voter rolls.
Some of the claims about dead voters appear to stem from a federal lawsuit that alleges Pennsylvania failed to “maintain accurate and current voter rolls” that include 21,000 apparently deceased registrants. But that is not the same as votes from dead people being cast and counted. The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative group based in Indiana, amended the lawsuit on Nov. 5 against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.
The group has taken legal action in a handful of places to try to force voter roll pruning. In December 2019, the group filed a lawsuit against Detroit election officials alleging that the city had over 2,500 dead people on the voter rolls — including one born in 1823. The lawsuit was dropped in June 2020 after election officials updated voter rolls.
TRUMP: “In Pennsylvania, large amounts of mail-in and absentee ballots were processed illegally and in secret in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties without our observers present. They were not allowed to be present. ... They were thrown out of the building.”
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect.
Trump is wholly misrepresenting a court case in the state and what happened at voting places. No one tried to ban poll watchers representing each side in the election. Democrats did not try to stop Republican representatives from being able to observe the process.
The main issue in the case was how close observers representing the parties could get to election workers who were processing mail-in ballots in Philadelphia. Trump’s representatives sued to allow the observers to get closer than the guidelines had allowed. A court ruled in favor of that request.
The counting in Philadelphia was being livestreamed, and Trump’s lawyers admitted in court that their campaign had observers in the room — “a nonzero” number of them, as they put it. Poll watchers have no role in counting votes.
Associated Press writers Arijeta Lajka, Michael Balsamo and Colleen Long contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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