Donald Trump has unleashed a torrent of misinformation in a White House speech that tried to undermine the legitimacy of the US election.
One allegation after another had no basis in fact, including claims that election officials in Pennsylvania and Detroit tried to ban election observers from polling stations. The president left without taking questions.
Here’s what the president claimed, and what’s actually true:
‘We have so much evidence’
TRUMP: “We’re hearing stories that are horror stories … We think there is going to be a lot of litigation because we have so much evidence and so much proof.”
THE FACTS: Trump has produced no evidence of systemic problems in voting or counting. In fact the ballot-counting process across the country has been running smoothly for the most part, even with the US in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic.
One of his main complaints – that counting spilled over past election day – is meritless. No presidential election has had all the votes counted the same day, and there is no law or even expectation that it should be the case. The surge in mailed ballots and the high turnout have made the process slower than usual in some, but not all, cases.
TRUMP: “In Pennsylvania partisan Democrats have allowed ballots in the state to be received three days after the election and we think much more than that and they are counting those without any postmarks or any identification whatsoever.”
THE FACTS: The state supreme court, not “partisan Democrats”, ordered that ballots filled out before the end of election day could be received up to three days later and still be counted. The US supreme court examined the case and did not stand in the way of the three-day timeframe but may review the matter later. A number of other states have also made accommodations for the additional mailed ballots.
TRUMP: “Pennsylvania Democrats have gone to the state supreme court to try and ban our election observers … They don’t want anybody in there. They don’t want anybody watching them while they are counting the ballots.”
THE FACTS: That is false. The president is wholly misrepresenting the court case. No one tried to ban poll watchers representing each side and Democrats did not try to stop Republican representatives from being able to observe the process.
The main issue was how close observers representing the parties could get to election workers who are processing mail-in ballots. The Trump campaign sued to let observers to get closer than the guidelines had allowed. A court ruled in favour of that request.
TRUMP: “Our campaign has been denied access to observe any counting in Detroit.”
THE FACTS: That is false. Absentee ballots were counted at a downtown convention centre where 134 counting boards were set up. Each party was allowed one poll watcher per board, said the city clerk, Janice Winfrey. She was not aware of any Republican poll watchers being removed but noted some had been “very aggressive, trying to intimidate the poll workers and processors”.
Mark Brewer, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic party, said he was inside the convention centre and access was cut off to some people from both sides at one point because of capacity restrictions related to the pandemic.
TRUMP: “The election apparatus in Georgia is run by Democrats.”
THE FACTS: False. The state’s elections are overseen by a Republican – the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger.
TRUMP: “The 11th Circuit ruled that in Georgia the votes have to be in by election day, that they should be in by election day. And they weren’t. Votes are coming in after election day.”
THE FACTS: Although the court ruled that votes must be in by 7pm election day for them to count, an exception was made for ballots from US military forces serving overseas. Those can be received until 5pm on Friday and still count. Election officials in Georgia are still counting votes but they are votes that have been lawfully received.
Legality of votes
TRUMP: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”
THE FACTS: This is baseless. Neither Trump’s campaign aides nor election officials have identified substantial numbers of “illegal” votes, much less the big numbers it would take to ruin an easy win by Trump. He frequently speaks as if mail-in voting is illegitimate. But it has been done in accordance with state voting rules, in some cases adapted by officials to help voters get through the pandemic safely.
TRUMP: “We were winning all the key locations, by a lot actually.” (Complaining that underhanded activity sapped his leads in important races.)
THE FACTS: The change in fortunes he speaks about is explained by the nature of vote counting in the states – not by any sudden surge of malfeasance.
Often, big cities are slower to report their numbers, and those big-city votes tend to skew Democratic. Likewise, states tend to count mail-in ballots at the end of the process. That portion of the vote has tended to favour Biden, because Trump had told his supporters to avoid mail-in voting, and to vote in person either early or on election day. This explains why Trump finished election night with leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia, among the states most in play, then saw his advantage begin to fray by Wednesday and afterwards.
With the Associated Press