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In his first public remarks since falsely saying he won re-election hours after the polls closed, President Donald Trump lashed out at ballot-counting efforts in several states, alleging with no evidence that the system was stacked against him in multiple ways.
"If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us," Trump said Nov. 5 from the White House press room podium.
There is no evidence at this point that any significant number of illegal votes have been cast. An illegal vote would be multiple votes cast by the same person or a vote cast by someone ineligible to vote.
Over 17 minutes, Trump made many inaccurate claims about the counts in several states and mail-in voting overall. Here are fact-checks of many of his allegations.
"A lot of votes came in late."
Some states allow mailed ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day a grace period if they arrive shortly after Election Day. All such votes would be legally cast under state law.
Other votes may be counted late, due to the logistical complications around the processing of mail ballots. But "counted late" is not the same as "arrived late." There is no evidence that ballots that arrived late are being counted in states that require mail ballots to be received by election officials on or before Election Day.
"We were winning in all the key locations by a lot, actually, and then our numbers started miraculously getting whittled away."
There was nothing miraculous about these shifts. Trump’s initial lead in certain states, including Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, began to shrink or disappear through the normal process of counting all of the ballots. Biden experienced the same phenomenon elsewhere, including in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.
Which counties reported first and which types of ballots were counted earlier had an impact on the course of how the results looked over the course of Election Night.
Mail voting is a "corrupt system."
We have fact-checked Trump on this subject for months, with ratings of False or Pants on Fire.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that mail-in voting substantially increases the risk of voter fraud. Election experts told us that mail balloting poses a potentially higher risk for fraud than in-person voting does. However, voter fraud is extremely rare in general, and studies have repeatedly found that the number of fraudulent votes to the number of ballots cast is minuscule.
According to a database maintained by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, there have been only a handful of voter fraud cases over the past few years. A 2007 report from the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal public policy institute, found that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than impersonate someone else at the polls
Trump has yet to provide any hard evidence that mail-in voting is fundamentally corrupt, and he himself has used the mail-in voting system in at least three past elections, including the Florida primary this year.
"We were ahead in the vote in North Carolina by a lot, a tremendous number of votes, and we’re still ahead by a lot, but not as many, because they’re finding ballots all of a sudden."
This is wrong. Biden had been leading in North Carolina until about 80% of the votes had been counted, according to New York Times data. Only then did Trump take the lead.
"It's amazing how all those mail-in ballots are so one-sided."
Trump has been railing against mail ballots for months, something he acknowledged in his White House remarks when he said, "I’ve said strongly that mail-in ballots are likely going to be a disaster." His supporters followed his advice and largely voted in person.
By contrast, Democrats have told voters that mail ballots, or voting early in person, were effective options for voters who wanted to minimize the risk of being infected with the coronavirus in crowded polling places on Election Day.
"They mailed out tens of millions of unsolicited ballots without any verification measures whatsoever. … They refuse to include any requirement to verify signatures, identities, or even determine whether they’re eligible or ineligible to vote."
Due to the pandemic, a number of states mailed ballots to all registered voters. Despite Trump’s claim, verification measures were taken. Nevada was one of these states, and Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s website makes it clear that signature verification is part of the voting process.
"Signature verification is performed on every ballot received," says the website. "If the signature is missing or if the signature on the ballot return envelope does not match the signature on file for the voter, the ballot will not be counted until the voter verifies their signature."
New Jersey, another state that mailed ballots to all registered voters, has a whole guide devoted to explaining the verification process, as does California.
"In Georgia, a pipe burst in a far-away location, totally unrelated to the location of what was happening, and they stopped counting for four hours, and a lot of things happened."
This paints an inaccurate picture of what happened on Election Day in Georgia.
On the evening of Nov. 3, Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a pipe had burst in State Farm Arena, a ballot-processing facility in downtown Atlanta. The incident occurred a little after 6 a.m. Election Day and was repaired within two hours.
The room in which the pipe burst contained ballots, but Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, director of external affairs for Fulton County, home of Atlanta, told PolitiFact that none of them were damaged. Election workers were able to start opening and scanning absentee ballots in late October.
"There was a brief delay in tabulating absentee ballots while the repairs were being conducted," she said.
Another spokesperson for Fulton County told CNN that the burst pipe delayed the start of work on Nov. 3 by about four hours.
"The election apparatus in Georgia is run by Democrats."
This is wrong. Georgia elections are run out of a special division of the secretary of state’s office. The current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, is a Republican.
Georgia has 159 county election liaisons that report to the secretary of state. They provide election reporting and support.
"In Philadelphia, observers are kept far away, very far away. So far that people are using binoculars. There's been tremendous problems caused, paper on all of the windows so you can't see in, and the people that are banned are very unhappy and have become somewhat violent."
The first part of this claim is missing context. Observers and campaign representatives in Philadelphia were required to keep a certain distance from poll workers out of concern for the coronavirus. The Philadelphia Inquirer photographed one person using binoculars to watch a vote count inside the Philadelphia Convention Center.
However, on Nov. 5, a judge granted the Trump campaign’s request to observe the count up-close after it cited a complaint from a Trump campaign observer who claimed that he was too far away to watch the ballots being counted.
We haven’t seen any reports of polling station windows being covered up in Philadelphia. Trump appears to be conflating Philadelphia with an incident in Detroit, Mich., discussed below, where workers covered windows because poll workers inside felt intimidated by protesters taking photos and videos of them.
"In Pennsylvania … they are counting those without even postmarks or without any identification whatsoever."
This is wrong. Election officials don’t use postmarks to identify mail-in ballots. Pennsylvanians have their identity checked while applying to receive a ballot, providing information such as a driver’s license or Social Security number.
"Our campaign has been denied access to observe any counting in Detroit."
That’s not true. On Nov. 4, both Democratic and Republican challengers were prohibited from entering TCF Center, Detroit’s hub for counting absentee ballots cast by the city’s voters. That’s because the number of challengers already observing the process had reached capacity.
Plenty of Republican challengers remained inside the room where absentee ballots were being counted. In fact, the Detroit election officials say that the maximum number of Republican and Democratic challengers allowed in the counting area had already been reached, which is why they had to stop admitting people.
"Poll workers in Michigan were duplicating ballots."
There’s no evidence of wrongdoing. In Michigan, voters in the military, overseas or with certain disabilities are emailed ballots that clerks have to replicate into the correct ballot format in order to be properly read by the ballot counting machines. The process is time-intensive, because the ballots have to be re-created, but they are only counted once.
If any ballots are accidentally fed into the ballot machine twice, that’s something that would be discovered by the county's Board of Canvassers. The Board of Canvassers is made up of Republicans and Democrats. It certifies each county’s election results and confirms that the number of ballots marked as cast in each precint’s poll book matches the number of absentee ballots that were counted.
"One major hub in Detroit covered up the windows, again, with large pieces of cardboard. So they wanted to protect and block the counting area."
This is not telling the whole story. Trump was referring to what happened at the TCF Center when Democratic and Republican challengers were prohibited from entering because there the number of challengers in the counting area had already surpassed the allowed limit.
When election officials at TCF informed dozens of challengers trying to enter that they would not be allowed back into the area where ballots were being counted because the room was at capacity, challengers gathered outside the ballot-counting area and began pounding on the doors and windows, the Detroit Free Press reported. They demanded to be let back in and called on election workers to stop counting ballots.
Election workers counting ballots asked security to place paper over the windows because they felt intimidated. Over 100 Republican challengers remained in the counting area and continued to observe election workers processing and counting ballots.
"In Detroit, there were hours of unexplained delay … The final batch did not arrive until 4 in the morning, even though the polls closed at 8 o’clock (at night)."
Trump seems to be referring to debunked blog posts claiming that invalid, late-arriving ballots were brought into TCF where election workers were processing and counting the absentee votes cast by Detroiters.
A video originally published by the Texas Scorecard, a product of the Tea Party-aligned group Empower Texans, has been widely shared on social media to claim that late-arriving ballots were being smuggled into the counting center after Michigan’s 8 p.m. deadline for returning absentee ballots.
A video published in an article from Texas Scorecard shows a man unloading a white van and wheeling a wagon into Detroit’s TCF. The man is a photographer with Detroit’s ABC affiliate WXYZ, and he was bringing in equipment into TCF in the wee hours for news coverage of the workers counting ballots.
Sources linked in article
C-SPAN, Trump press briefing, Nov. 5, 2020