Analyzing 2020 Voter Fraud Claims

There have been countless claims regarding voter fraud that have gone viral and have been promoted by the President and his legal team. Many of these are easily proven false, which says a lot about the credibility of the people promoting them. Eventually, when someone keeps crying wolf, they clearly aren’t very serious about looking for actual wolves. Here are 13 examples:

  1. Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, and some PA legislators have suggested that there were 700K more absentee ballots returned than were sent out. Specifically, Rudy claimed that only 1.8 million ballots had been sent out, but nearly 2.6 million ballots returned. A quick search would have revealed that the 1,823,148 mail ballots had been sent out during the primary. The state sent out 3,087,524 ballots for the general election.
  2. The President’s legal team and allies have also repeatedly claimed that several Michigan precincts in Wayne County had more voters than were registered. This is another claim that is easy to check and was not accurate. The origin for the claim, which was first debunked by the right-leaning Powerline blog, appears to be a data analysis submitted as an affidavit in a court case where the author used old Minnesota data and listed it as Michigan data. That author, Russ Ramsland, also happens to be the main source that Sidney Powell cites in her lawsuit to support her claim of a Dominion software conspiracy. Actually voter turnout in Wayne County was 62.44%. The data is easily available by precinct.
  3. Giuliani also claimed there were multiple Wisconsin precincts with more voters than were registered. This claim would also be easily verifiable, but it was false. It appears they were looking at registration numbers from the 2018 midterms and comparing them to voters in the 2020 election turnout. There were also claims that Wisconsin voter turnout was unusually or unreasonably high, but that’s because the comparisons often used registration numbers that didn’t account for Wisconsin allowing for registrations on election day.
  4. Another popular claim that has gone viral is that Biden only improved on Hillary’s margins in 4 major cities so it would be impossible for him to have done much better than her. National Review’s Dan Mclaughlin does an excellent job debunking this claim. Dan looked at 36 counties incorporating large cities across the country (excluding New York and California since those states were still counting votes), and found Biden improved over Hillary’s margin in 31 of them. Biden’s growth overwhelmingly came from suburbs surrounding these cities. It is worth noting that The Federalist article where this claim gained traction after it was shared by President Trump has been updated to reflect that the claim was incorrect. 
  5. Another viral claim that originated from a Trump campaign adviser was that Georgia had 95,801 Biden-only ballots, but only 818 Trump-only ballots. The source of this claim is a comparison in votes between the Presidential and Senate races. The mistake here is obvious. Biden getting 95,801 more votes than the Democrat Senate candidate does not mean that all of those ballots just had Biden filled in. Instead, split-ticket voting is a far more likely explanation for the margin. In fact, since there was only a 46,628 vote gap between the Presidential and Senate races, we know for a fact that the claim of 95,801 only-Biden votes is not correct.
  6. Donald Trump and countless others suggested there was something nefarious about Biden receiving a dump of 143,379 votes at 3:42 am on election night. Others claim that Trump received no votes in that voter dump. In reality, these ballots were not exclusively for Biden and everyone knew that this bucket of votes was coming and would be predominantly for Biden. This batch of votes represented the absentee ballots from Milwaukee County. Milwaukee officials had announced earlier in the night exactly how many votes they would be counting (~170k) and those who were watching the news at that time on election night would have even witnessed the police escort as county officials rushed to report the results to the county courthouse. In fact, I personally tweeted at 3 am that the Milwaukee absentee ballots would “drop shortly” and give us a better indication of the race in Wisconsin since it was clear these ballots would mostly go for Biden and Trump was holding onto a small lead at that time.
  7. Another viral claim that originated on election night and was eventually promoted by President Trump was that 138,339 votes were magically added to Biden in Michigan. While it’s true that the numbers temporarily reflected a major boost for Biden, the source of the dispute was an extra 0 on 15,137 Biden votes being added during the reporting process by officials in Shiawassee County before the data was transmitted to DecisionDeskHQ. While DDHQ reported the numbers as they were transmitted, the mistake was noticed by state officials within 20 minutes and changed before it was officially reported out.
  8. A viral video from election day, which was later amplified by Eric Trump, claimed to show someone burning 80 Trump ballots in Virginia. However, the city of Virginia Beach came forward shortly after noting that the ballots in question were actually just sample ballots, as is clear because they lack the bar codes contained on official ballots.
  9. A claim that has been widely circulating on right-leaning sites and Twitter is that a bunch of cities mysteriously stopped counting their ballots on election night without explanation. Sidney Powell incorporated this in her conspiracy to claim that the secret algorithm meant to switch votes to Biden was so overwhelmed by the huge margins for Trump that it overloaded and thus caused the shutdowns in counting. However, it simply is not true that a bunch of cities in swing states stops counting during election night. There was one clear example of one precinct in Fulton County Georgia that stopped counting for 4 hours due to a reported pipe bursting. There have been some questions raised about the seriousness of the leak and whether it really required such a long delay, but this was not a widespread occurrence. In Philadelphia, one reporter had claimed that officials had stopped counting and that claim was eventually picked up by several media outlets, but that same reporter later retracted and corrected it to say that counting would continue.
  10. Certain large accounts posted a viral claim suggesting thousands of dead voters cast their ballots in Michigan. Several news organizations went through various names on this list and all of them found that the list was overwhelmingly based on mixing up different records. CNN reviewed 50 of the names on the list (the first 25 names and 25 more at random) and found 37 of them were dead but had not voted, 5 were alive but had not voted, and 8 were alive and voted. The BBC picked 31 names on another viral list. Only 3 of them were deceased. In 2 of those cases, their sons voted, but their votes were recorded under the names of their deceased fathers. In the third case, the woman died after she had sent in her ballot. The clerk is supposed to disqualify such ballots, but it was not clear if they did. Tucker Carlson was forced to apologize on-air after citing a claim of a dead Georgia voter casting a ballot only to discover that it was in fact the voter’s widow that had cast the ballot for herself.
  11. Several videos from vote processing centers after election day showed election workers filling out ballots. Social media posts automatically suggested there was something fraudulent going on. In reality, these were election workers creating marked duplicate ballots for those that otherwise were damaged or could not be read by the tabulation machines. This is a standard procedure in each election for damaged ballots. The video also zooms in to cut out the bipartisan observers that are standing near the desk to watch the process.
  12. Another accusation that went viral on election day was that election officials in Maricopa County Arizona were intentionally invalidating predominantly Trump votes by providing voters with sharpies to use on their ballots. Arizona’s State Attorney General confirmed after an investigation that the use of sharpies did not invalidate any votes in Maricopa County.
  13. At one point Trump claimed that "almost zero"  [mail-in] ballots were rejected in Georgia this year compared to over 4% for previous elections. Similar claims have been widely spread by several right-leaning blogs. The source of this misinformation is a comparison of two different rejection rates. The rejection rate that has resulted from signature mismatches was very consistent for the 2020 election (0.15%) when compared to 2018 (0.16%) and 2016 (0.24%). Several sources wrongly compared that to the overall ballot rejection rate of 6.5% from 2016 and 3.1% in 2018, which overwhelmingly consisted of ballots that arrived after mail-in deadlines had passed. We do not have that data yet for 2020.
  14. Another major claim was that there was extensive fraud in Wayne County, Michigan which justified not certifying the results there. The evidence to support this is a claim that many voting precincts in Detroit were "out of balance". What that means is that the number of ballots given to voters at a particular precinct does not match the number of actual votes. The implication is that there was massive fraud there. However, there are several other reasons this could happen. If a ballot is poorly filled out or a voter requires a new ballot and poll workers do not account for the spoiled ballot, that creates a discrepancy. Another possible explanation for a discrepancy is that a voter was handed a ballot but got tired of waiting in line and left without voting.  During the August primary, 71% of Detroit precincts were out of balance. In the general election, 28% of precincts were out of balance. In total, there was a discrepancy of 357 votes out of the over 250,000 cast in Detroit.  If the election had been decided by a few hundred votes, it would make sense to take a close look at these discrepancies. Instead, Trump lost Michigan by over 154,188 votes. 
  15. A lot of the people arguing that there was massive voter fraud point to a large number of affadavits submitted in several lawsuits, but rarely look at the content of affidavits. Many of them consist of hearsay where someone is attesting that they heard about wrongdoing from someone else.  Ethan Pease, a USPS subcontractor, has appeared on Fox News several times and been repeatedly cited by Trump's team for his claim that USPS workers told him they had backdated as many as 100,000 ballots received on November 4th and 5th to count them for the election in Wisconsin. Putting aside that there was no direct evidence of this claim, it is also impossible. All Wisconsin precincts had already reported their vote totals by early in the day on November 4th so the only way those hypothetical ballots could have been counted, regardless of the date on them, would have been via some form of time travel. 
  16. One of the biggest conspiracies related to election fraud has been that Dominion tabulator machines switched a large number of votes from Trump to Biden. This was the conspiracy promoted by Sidney Powell. Believers of this conspiracy thought they had something when a judge ordered an audit of the Dominion machines in Antrim County, Michigan because a proposal related to Marijuana lost by one vote. The Powell expert who mixed up Michigan and Minnesota, Russ Ramsland, released a report claiming there was evidence from the Dominion machine that it could easily be manipulated and likely had votes changed. That report was full of errors. In addition, as Antrim County used 100% paper ballots, a full audit was done and votes recounted by hand in the County.  The recount resulted in a net 12 votes being gained for Trump, which is a minimal shift that confirms there was no large amount of votes that were switched by the tabulators. 

Update: There have been a lot of specific allegations made by President Trump and his allies about voter fraud in Georgia. The Republican elections manager did a 30-minute press conference debunking each individual claim. 

These examples do not include the baseless conspiracies promoted by Sidney Powell of a secret CIA-fueled algorithm that magically transferred millions of votes from Trump to Biden. None of this means, as some who choose to kill straw man arguments would suggest, that there was no voter fraud. It simply means that based on available evidence, any fraud that occurred was not at the level at which it would have impacted the outcome of the election and that those promoting these claims are not vetting them in a way that would suggest they actually care about getting to the truth.

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