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President-elect Joe Biden speaks after the Electoral College formally elected him as president on Dec. 14, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP/Semansky) President-elect Joe Biden speaks after the Electoral College formally elected him as president on Dec. 14, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP/Semansky)

President-elect Joe Biden speaks after the Electoral College formally elected him as president on Dec. 14, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP/Semansky)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy December 15, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • President-elect Joe Biden blasted President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the election in a roughly 13-minute address.

  • The speech came shortly after electors across the country officially cast 306 electoral votes in Biden’s favor, sealing his victory in a vote that is typically procedural but took on added importance as Trump refused to concede.

  • Biden’s claims about the election and Trump’s challenges to it were mostly accurate.

President-elect Joe Biden called for unity and healing while assailing President Donald Trump’s unprecedented attempts to overturn the results of the election in a Dec. 14 speech

Biden delivered the address from Wilmington, Del., on the day electors from across the country cast their votes to seal Biden’s victory. It was a harsh rebuke of Trump, who refuses to concede defeat, and of the Republicans who have adopted Trump’s baseless claims of fraud.

"In America, politicians don’t take power," Biden said. "People grant power to them. The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know nothing — not even a pandemic or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame."

Biden called Trump’s attacks on the election and local officials "unconscionable." He urged Americans to "turn the page" and, with a nod to the more than 300,000 Americans who have died to COVID-19, pledged to focus on controlling the pandemic and repairing the economy.

"We need to stand in solidarity as fellow Americans, to see each other, our pain, our struggles, our hopes, and our dreams," Biden said. "We’re a great nation. We’re good people."

The claims Biden made about the election and the president’s weeks-long campaign to upend the results were largely accurate, PolitiFact found. Here are some that stuck out.

The Biden transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

"They voted in record numbers. More Americans voted this year than have ever voted in the history of the United States of America."

This is accurate when comparing total vote counts. More than 157 million people cast ballots in 2020, the most ever. Nationwide, Biden received 81 million votes to Trump’s 74 million. That translated to an Electoral College win of 306 to 232, a margin the electors made official Dec. 14.

In terms of sheer ballots, 2020 eclipsed 2008’s record, when nearly 131.5 million people voted. According to news reports, voter turnout increased in every state over 2016. But turnout as a share of the voting population has been higher, albeit under different circumstances.

The Washington Post reported that the roughly 66% of voting-eligible Americans who voted in 2020 is the highest percentage since 1900, when the pool of voters was much smaller. Nearly 74% of eligible Americans voted in that year, but women and other groups had not been granted the right to vote. And the voting age was 21 until 1971.

"306 electoral votes is the same number of electoral votes that Donald Trump and Vice President (Mike) Pence received when they won in 2016. At the time, President Trump called his Electoral College tally a landslide."

This is largely accurate. Trump, like Biden, earned 306 electoral votes when he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. He called it a "landslide" in a claim we rated False.

But technically, Trump received fewer than the 306 electoral votes he earned on Election Day. When it came to the Electoral College votes, two electors pledged to Trump didn’t vote for him. These "faithless electors" meant Trump officially received 304 electoral votes

There were no faithless electors in 2020, according to reports.

"They were heard by more than 80 judges across this country. And in every case, no cause or evidence was found to reverse or question or dispute the results."

Biden’s figure is accurate. The Washington Post reviewed court documents and reported that 86 judges rejected at least one post-election lawsuit filed by Trump or his supporters. The judges served on the bench at many different levels, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Biden is also correct that Trump’s litigation has uncovered no evidence to change the results of the election. As PolitiFact reported, dozens of lawsuits failed because they did not prove the widespread voter fraud they alleged, made errors or faced jurisdictional problems. 

"The only decision in the campaign’s favor was in Pennsylvania about a three-day extension of a deadline for mail-in voters who had not provided a proper ID with their timely-submitted ballots to cure the defect," said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. That case wasn’t about fraud, and it involved a small number of ballots that didn’t change the outcome.

"A few states went for recounts. All the counts were confirmed. The results in Georgia were counted three times. It didn’t change the outcome. The recount conducted in Wisconsin actually saw our margin grow."

This is accurate. Georgia conducted three counts — including the original, an audit-triggered hand recount and a formal recount requested by the Trump campaign. Each count saw Biden receive more votes than Trump and resulted in Biden winning the state.

In Wisconsin, a state Biden won by a larger margin, Biden picked up an additional 74 votes following a partial recount in two counties, PolitiFact reported.  

Election results have been certified in Washington, D.C., and all 50 states, including the key battlegrounds that helped tilt the election in Biden’s favor and became targets of litigation.

The Texas lawsuit was "a position so extreme, we’ve never seen it before."

Legal experts agreed with Biden’s assessment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit, which asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the election results in four states that Biden won.

The challenge, which was filed directly in the Supreme Court and received public backing from 17 Republican attorneys general and a majority of Republican House members, would have disenfranchised millions of legal voters had it not been rejected for lack of standing.

"I do think the Texas case was extreme," said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California, Irvine. "It was both legally extreme — there’s no basis in the Constitution for one state to challenge how another state’s legislature decides on procedures for choosing presidential electors — and factually extreme, raising debunked or ridiculously weak claims of election fraud and irregularities to try to justify flipping the election from Biden to Trump. It was outrageous and antidemocratic."

"Nothing I can think of comes close" in terms of precedent, Hasen said. Vladeck agreed that the lawsuit was unprecedented.

"There had never before been a suit filed in the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in which one state contested how multiple other states conducted their elections," Vladeck said.

"His own cybersecurity chief overseeing this election said it was the most secure in American history."

This is accurate. Christopher Krebs, the cybersecurity expert in question, was fired after his agency released a statement saying the election was "the most secure in American history."

Trump wrongly claimed that the agency’s statement was inaccurate when he fired Krebs. But PolitiFact found that it was grounded in evidence and rated Trump’s claim Pants on Fire.

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Our Sources

NBC News on YouTube, "President-Elect Biden Speaks After Electoral College Vote | NBC News NOW," Dec. 14, 2020

U.S. Election Atlas, "United States Presidential Election Results," accessed Dec. 15, 2020

National Archives, "2016 Electoral College Results," accessed Dec. 15, 2020

United States Elections Project, "National General Election VEP Turnout Rates, 1789-Present," accessed Dec. 15, 2020

The Washington Post, "2020 turnout is the highest in over a century," Dec. 15, 2020

Politico, "Electoral College affirms Biden's victory," Dec. 14, 2020

The Washington Post, "‘The last wall’: How dozens of judges across the political spectrum rejected Trump’s efforts to overturn the election," Dec. 12, 2020

The New York Times, "Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Subvert Election," Dec. 11, 2020

CNN, "All 50 states and DC have now certified their presidential election results," Dec. 9, 2020

The New York Times, "Biden Secures Enough Electors to Be President," Dec. 9, 2020

Georgia Secretary of State, "Secretary of State Certifies Election, Kraken Case Dismissed," Dec. 7, 2020

NBC News, "Map: Turnout surged in 2020. See the numbers where you live," Dec. 2, 2020

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump has lost dozens of election lawsuits. Here’s why," Dec. 10, 2020

PolitiFact, "Casting and counting the electoral votes: What to expect," Dec. 10, 2020

PolitiFact, "Recount finds Trump did not win Wisconsin, despite his victory claim," Dec. 9, 2020

PolitiFact, "46 minutes of falsehoods: Trump rehashes baseless election claims in White House video," Dec. 3, 2020

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Donald Trump’s tweet firing Christopher Krebs," Nov. 18, 2020

PolitiFact, "How narrow was Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump?" Nov. 13, 2020

PolitiFact, "The media have called the presidential race for Joe Biden. Here's what's next," Nov. 7, 2020

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump's Electoral College victory was not a 'massive landslide,'" Dec. 12, 2016

Email interview with Stephen Vladeck, chair in federal courts at the University of Texas School of Law, Dec. 15, 2020

Email interview with Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, Dec. 15, 2020

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