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President Joe Biden speaks from Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol to mark the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol by supporters loyal to then-President Donald Trump, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. (AP) President Joe Biden speaks from Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol to mark the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol by supporters loyal to then-President Donald Trump, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. (AP)

President Joe Biden speaks from Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol to mark the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol by supporters loyal to then-President Donald Trump, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman January 6, 2022

If Your Time is short

  • Federal officials in Trump’s own administration said the election was secure, and dozens of judges have rejected lawsuits alleging widespread fraud.

  • In 2021, evidence mounted that when fraud occurred, it was isolated and in such small numbers that it did not change the outcome of the election.

President Joe Biden denounced Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election in a forceful speech from the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, the same setting where pro-Trump rioters passed through as they disrupted the certification of presidential election one year earlier.

"We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie," Biden said. "And here is the truth: the former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election." 

He referred to Trump as the "defeated former president" who could not accept the facts of his loss despite overwhelming evidence. Biden reeled off a list of facts to show officials at all levels of government — judges, battleground state governors, U.S. senators and Trump’s own attorney general — concluding the election was secure. He pointed out that Trump and Republicans had no problem accepting the results of down-ballot races that favored them.

Biden vowed to "stand for the rule of law, preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive." 

Trump responded minutes after Biden spoke with a press release from his political action committee repeating his ridiculous falsehood that the 2020 race was "rigged."

Though banned on most social media, Trump has repeated the Pants on Fire claim in numerous emails, rallies and interviews with right-wing pundits. 

But it was clear within weeks that the 2020 election was not rigged. Federal officials in Trump’s administration said the election was secure, and dozens of judges, including GOP appointees, rejected claims by Trump and his allies that there was widespread fraud. 

Fourteen months after Election Day, the election results are even more certain: Biden won.

As Americans reflect on the Capitol attack, PolitiFact wanted to recap the latest investigations by state leaders, journalists and even partisan officials that only strengthen this fact. 

Investigations show scant voter fraud in 2020

Voter fraud in the 2020 election — as predicted — was minimal. 

The number of people prosecuted for voter fraud is so tiny that even if all the fraudulent votes found by officials were eliminated or counted for Trump, they still would not have delivered a victory to Trump.

"Law enforcement has had a year to investigate and nothing has been identified that would come close to changing any outcome," said Trey Grayson, a Republican and former Kentucky secretary of state. "It is not accurate to say that there were zero incidents of fraud. But there is no evidence showing that anything would change or that anything was rigged."

The Associated Press published one of the most sweeping investigations into voter fraud cases around the country in December 2021, contacting more than 300 local election offices as well as state officials. The AP found fewer than 475 voter fraud cases in six battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The disputed ballots represent 0.15% of Biden’s victory margin in those states, the AP found.

The AP concluded that most of the cases involved lone actors — and no evidence of "rigging" or collusion. Some cases involved people who sought to cast a ballot on behalf of a dead relative. In Nevada, for example, Donald Kirk Hartle told a TV station that someone cast a ballot in his dead wife’s name, but Hartle himself later pleaded guilty.

Other cases were a result of administrative error or voter confusion. One Wisconsin man who was on parole for a drunk driving felony told the AP he voted after asking poll workers if it was OK.

Officials were investigating the largest number of disputed votes in Arizona — 198 out of 3.4 million cast, the AP found. Only nine resulted in charges. A spokesperson for the attorney’s office in Pima County, home to Tucson, told PolitiFact that the results of its probe of 151 incidents could be released by the end of the week.

Cases remain under investigation in other states, and it’s possible additional people could face charges. But these would not be significant enough to swing results in battleground states, which have been verified by state officials or outside groups.  

In Arizona, state Senate Republicans ordered a review of 2 million ballots in Maricopa County that ultimately upheld the finding that Biden beat Trump. An investigation led by Michigan Republican lawmakers found no basis for claims that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In Wisconsin, a conservative group found no evidence of widespread fraud and nothing suspicious about turnout or the timing of the vote tally.

In Georgia, Trump said thousands of dead people voted, but investigators found just four absentee ballots from Georgia voters who had died, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in December. All were returned by relatives. As Biden said, Georgia conducted multiple recounts, including one by hand.  

Trump supporters move to combat nonexistent fraud

Trump’s falsehoods still seem to carry weight within his party. Despite evidence showing voter fraud rarely occurred, some Republican politicians have proposed new policies designed to prevent fraud or investigate allegations. Democrats say these efforts are intended to discourage voting. 

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed creating a state office, with a budget of $5.7 million, to investigate fraud and "irregularities." Local elections officials told PolitiFact that fraud was rare, giving the example of a Bradenton man who was arrested after officials found he tried to obtain a mail ballot on behalf of his dead wife. Four voters in The Villages, a largely conservative retirement community in central Florida, were arrested for voting more than once.

Trump’s rhetoric is also inspiring candidates who support him to run for secretary of state, a post that in most states oversees and enforces election procedures. 

"It is not clear how these candidates would run elections if they win, but the fact that they campaign on a claim that is demonstrably false is dangerous," said Thessalia Merivaki, a professor of American politics at Mississippi State University. "It can empower state legislatures to further restrict access to voting, as well as empower bad faith actors to continue harassing and targeting poll workers and election officials, who are doing their best to make democracy work with limited resources and support." 

Benny White, a Republican who serves on the Pima County Election Integrity Commission, said that while Trump’s comments are not factual, "there is some percentage of Republicans who believe every word he says."

Polls back that up: A majority of Republican voters agree with Trump’s statements about fraud or that Biden wasn’t legitimately elected. That leaves local and state elections officials with the task of administering midterm elections against rampant distrust sown by Trump.

Elections officials have continued to make elections more secure, including audits to verify vote counts and electronic poll books to ensure voters can only access one ballot. Voters can also track their absentee ballots online.

 "All these innovations strengthen the system and ensure that the results reflect the will of the eligible voters who cast ballots,"  said Matthew Weil, an elections expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center.  "The election processes America had in 2020 simply make it very difficult to imagine how widespread fraud could have happened and remain undetectable 14 months later."

RELATED: In attack on Bill Barr, Trump repeats falsehood about 2020 election

RELATED: Michigan Republican-led investigation rejects Trump's claim that Nov. 3 election was stolen

RELATED: Trump falsely describes Arizona audit findings


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Our Sources

C-SPAN, Pres. Biden & Vice Pres. Harris Speak on Jan. 6 Anniversary, Jan. 6, 2022

AP, Far too little vote fraud to tip election to Trump, AP finds, Dec. 14, 2021

Washington Post, In four years, President Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims, Jan. 20, 2021 transcript, Donald Trump Sean Hannity Interview on Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021, Donald Trump Des Moines, Iowa Rally Speech Transcript, Oct. 9, 2021

Save America PAC, Statement by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America, Nov. 23, 2021

Texas Tribune, First part of Texas’ 2020 election audit reveals few issues, echoes findings from review processes already in place, Dec. 31, 2021

Nevada Independent, Clark County man pleads guilty to voting more than once in 2020 election, Nov. 15, 2021

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative group finds no signs of widespread voter fraud in Wisconsin but urges changes to election processes, Dec. 7, 2021

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Auditors find voting machines work properly, say election officials should adopt formal rules on drop boxes, Oct. 22, 2021

Bloomberg Government, ​​Sparse Voter-Fraud Cases Undercut Claims of Widespread Abuses, July 21, 2021

AP, 3 voters from The Villages charged with voting fraud, Dec. 15, 2021

Tampa Bay Times, DeSantis’ new election crimes office: 52 positions and ‘unprecedented’ authority, Dec. 20, 2021

Heritage Foundation, A Sampling of Recent Election Fraud Cases from Across the United States, Accessed Jan. 5, 2022

KWTX, Former President Donald Trump downplays Jan. 6 insurrection, doubles down on false election claims on Texas trip, Dec. 20, 2021

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, October 2021

USA Today, A year after Jan. 6, Americans say democracy is in peril but disagree on why: USA TODAY/Suffolk poll, Jan. 4, 2022

New York Times, Trump Repeats Debunked Election Claims in Call With Georgia Official, Jan. 3, 2021

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Alleged ‘dead’ Georgia voters found alive and well after 2020 election, Dec. 27, 2021

ABC8 News, 4th resident of Florida retirement haven The Villages arrested for voter fraud, Jan. 5, 2022

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

PolitiFact, In attack on Bill Barr, Trump repeats falsehood about 2020 election, June 29, 2021

PolitiFact, Joe Biden is right that more than 60 of Trump’s election lawsuits lacked merit, Jan. 8, 2021

PolitiFact, How the GOP spun a 'dead voter' allegation in Nevada, Oct. 26, 2021

PolitiFact, Why Roger Stone’s claim about 'phantom voters' in Florida is wrong, Nov. 3, 2021

PolitiFact, Here’s why Georgia’s Republican officials are confident in their presidential election results, Jan. 5, 2021

Email interview, Joe Watson, Pima County Attorney’s Office spokesperson, Jan. 5, 2022

Email interview, Trey Grayson member, Frost Brown Todd LLC, Managing Director, CivicPoint, and former Kentucky Secretary of State, Jan. 5, 2022

Email interview, Matthew Weil, director, Elections Project | Bipartisan Policy Center, Jan. 5, 2022

Email interview, Thessalia Merivaki, assistant professor in American politics, Mississippi State University, Jan. 5, 2022

Telephone interview, Benny White, Pima County Election Integrity Commission, Jan. 22, 2022

Email interview, Barry C. Burden, political science professor and director, Elections Research Center University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jan. 5, 2022


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