Election results under attack: Here are the facts

A compilation of the misinformation, disinformation and many rejected legal challenges by the Trump campaign to try to overturn votes.
Officials from the Allegheny County Elections Division look for a ballot bin in Pittsburgh on Nov. 4. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
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Joe Biden has been elected the next president of the United States, with a wide lead in both the electoral college and in the popular vote. President Trump has refused to concede, uttering baseless allegations of election fraud that have been amplified by Republican allies and conservative media outlets. His campaign has gone to court in five states, where Biden’s total margin is nearly 300,000, to challenge the counting of certain ballots or the certification of the vote.

Here are the facts about prominent efforts to question the fairness and integrity of the election, as well as updates on litigation.

The latest

90 minutes of falsehoods: Fact-checking Giuliani

Trump courts GOP leaders to do what voters didn’t

Dominion: What you need to know about the vote-software firm

Challenged by President Trump

Security of voting systems

“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised … The November 3 election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process before finalizing the result. ”

Joint statement of federal, state and local officials to counter election disinformation, Nov. 12

Claim: President Trump spread claims on Nov. 12 that voting software is “used in states where tens of thousands of votes were stolen from us and given to Biden.” He said in repeated tweets that Dominion Voting Systems are “horrible, inaccurate and anything but secure,” all of which were flagged by Twitter as disputed. He retweeted a baseless report that the voting machine system had “deleted 2.7 million Trump votes nationwide. ”

Fact: There is no evidence that any voting systems were compromised, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. “The systems and processes used by election officials to tabulate votes and certify official results are protected by various safeguards that help ensure the accuracy of election results,” the agency notes on its rumor control website that refutes disinformation and misinformation about the accuracy of election results. “These safeguards include measures that help ensure tabulation systems function as intended, protect against malicious software, and enable the identification and correction of any irregularities. ”

The president fired the agency’s director on Nov. 17 with a tweet that carried a now-commonplace disclaimer from Twitter: “This claim about election fraud is disputed.” Chris Krebs led successful efforts to help state and local election offices protect their systems and oversaw efforts to safeguard against foreign and domestic disinformation campaigns. He had refuted the president’s unfounded claims of ballot fraud. Earlier in the day, Krebs had tweeted that “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’ ”

In Pennsylvania, Trump won 12 of the 14 counties that use Dominion voting systems. Allegheny and Philadelphia counties, where Biden received more than a million votes, do not.

More on how Dominion software works. Washington Post Fact Checker on Trump claims.

Challenged by President Trump

Ballot counting in Pa.

“In Philadelphia, officials are administering the election with the highest degree of transparency. There has been a livestream of the ballot-counting process available throughout the count, and all parties have canvass observers. ”

— Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, (D), Nov. 4

Claim: President Trump tweeted that he won Pennsylvania because “700,000 ballots were not allowed to be viewed in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.” He and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani have continued to make the claim. In a court filing, the Trump campaign contended “Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties alone received and processed 682,479 mail-in and absentee ballots without review by the political parties and candidates. ”

Fact: Under Pennsylvania election law, each political party and candidate is entitled to have a representative “in the room” to watch ballots being counted, and state and local officials have said that all parties had access to the count. Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs has said that “at no time were canvassing operations conducted without observers having the opportunity to see the process and the counting.” Braced for conspiracy theories, Philadelphia authorities also live-streamed the count online. And in a separate lawsuit, a Trump campaign attorney had to acknowledge to a judge that Republicans had “a nonzero number of people in the room. ”

In its ongoing federal suit against the state and county boards of election, the campaign dropped its claim for legal action based on the assertion that observers were denied access to the count. In a revised suit filed on Nov. 15, the campaign again asked U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann to block the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results. But a secondary request to block the certification of all votes where observer access was allegedly restricted was deleted in the amended suit. And the new version stripped out all the legal counts based on the allegation that ballots were counted in secret.

Trump’s pared-down lawsuit then focused on allegations that Republicans were illegally disadvantaged because some Democratic-leaning counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail ballots. Counties have said this affected only a small number of votes.

In a blistering ruling on Nov. 21, Brann dismissed the suit, writing that the Trump campaign had used “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” stitched together “like Frankenstein’s Monster” in a bid to throw out millions of votes. A federal appeals court upheld that ruling on Nov. 27, writing: "Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here. Voters, not lawyers, choose the President. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”

Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) certified Biden’s victory on Nov. 24 after receiving official confirmation of the presidential vote totals from all 67 counties in the state. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) then signed a certificate selecting Biden’s slate of electors, which was submitted to the federal government.

Read the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. Fact-checking Rudy Giuliani’s claims.

Challenged by GOP officials

Voting process in Ga.

“There was no wholesale fraudulent scheme or device in any of these states where the votes were close that could potentially change the results of the election. ”

— Saxby Chambliss, a former Republican U.S. senator from Georgia, in an interview, Nov. 12

Claim: “The Secretary of State has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections. He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.” With that statement on Nov. 9, Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia demanded the resignation of Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Fact: The two senators provided no evidence to support their claims. Both failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote and now face a runoff election in January to retain their seats and the Republicans’s Senate majority. Biden won Georgia by about 14,000 votes, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has won there since 1992.

In a statement, Raffensperger refused to resign.

“Was there illegal voting? I am sure there was. And my office is investigating all of it. Does it rise to the numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome to where President Trump is given Georgia’s electoral votes? That is unlikely,” he wrote.

Raffensperger said in an interview Nov. 16 that he has increasingly been pressured by fellow Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), to question the validity of legally cast absentee ballots. A manual hand recount of the state’s 5 million votes found no evidence of widespread irregularity: There was just a 0.0099 percent variation in the overall presidential margin.

Georgia certified its election results on Nov. 20. The state is now completing a recount of the recount at the request of Trump’s campaign. The president has continued to push false claims that tens of thousands of Georgia votes flipped from Trump to Biden. On Nov. 30, a top Raffensperger aide, Gabe Sterling, said of the disinformation: “They’re insanity. Fever dream. Made up. Internet cabal.”

The Republican secretary of state who won’t back down. Trump’s feud with Ga. Gov. Brian Kemp.

Challenged in court

Ballots cast in Maricopa County

“There is no evidence, there are no facts that would lead anyone to believe that the election results will change. ”

Mark Brnovich, Arizona’s Republican attorney general, on Fox on Nov. 11

Claim: A lawsuit filed by the Arizona GOP, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee alleged that “up to thousands” of ballots had been mishandled in Maricopa County, the state’s largest, and would “prove determinative.” The suit contended that poll workers pressed or told voters to press a button on a tabulating machine to cast their ballots even after those tabulators flagged an apparent “overvote,” in which the machine believed a voter marked two candidates in the same race.

Fact: Biden won Arizona’s 11 electoral votes by about 10,000 votes. A judge dismissed the lawsuit on Nov. 13, after Trump campaign attorney Kory Langhofer acknowledged that only about 190 ballots had over votes in the presidential race on the count’s ballots.

On Nov. 19, another state judge dismissed a separate lawsuit, also filed by the Arizona GOP, that sought to have Maricopa County redo a hand-count of its audit.

The county certified its vote on Nov. 20, and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, certified the state’s election results on Nov. 30. “This election was conducted with transparency, accuracy and fairness in accordance with Arizona’s laws and election procedures," said Hobbs, "despite numerous unfounded claims to the contrary.”

The state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, also said the election was properly run. “The pandemic and covid-19 brought new unprecedented challenges for our state. But as I said before, we do elections well here in Arizona,” he said. “The system is strong, and that’s why I have bragged on it so much.”

Hours later, Trump lashed out at Ducey for the certification.

The latest Post reporting on Trump’s legal efforts.

Challenged in court

Poll watchers in Detroit

“It would be an unprecedented exercise of judicial activism for this court to stop the certification process” that would “undermine faith in the Electoral System. ”

— Michigan state court judge Timothy M. Kenny, in a ruling, Nov. 13

Claim: Two GOP poll watchers contended in a suit that some poll workers in heavily Democratic Detroit coached voters to cast ballots for Biden and that some Republican poll observers were not given an adequate opportunity to monitor the vote count, an allegation that Trump repeated in remarks on Nov. 5. They also contended that loads of ballots were improperly brought into the city’s convention center in the middle of the night and asked the court to delay certification of the election results.

Fact: Since Election Day, four lawsuits have been filed challenging the results in Michigan, three of which have focused almost exclusively on Wayne County, Michigan’s most populated county and home to the state’s largest city. Biden won the Democratic-dominated county by 37 points over Trump, or by a margin of nearly 323,000 votes.

Lawyers for Detroit and for the Michigan Democratic Party had argued in court papers that about 100 Republican poll challengers had in fact been let into the convention center, but that some were not allowed to return after leaving once the room filled up and exceeded its legal capacity.

“Every one of these attempts is a blatant effort to undermine the voices of a majority of Michigan voters,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said after the judge ruled. “No party or politician can steal this election. ”

In his ruling, Kenny wrote that one of the affidavits submitted by Republican challengers was “rife with speculation and sinister motives.” Another person who submitted an affidavit had posted on Facebook that Democrats had planned to commit fraud, Kenny noted, writing that “his predilection to believe fraud was occurring undermines his credibility as a witness. ”

On Nov. 16, Michigan’s Court of Appeals rejected a request to reverse Kelly’s ruling allowing certification to proceed as required by Nov. 17. That is the deadline for all counties in the state to certify their vote totals and submit them to the state canvassing board. Boards across the state have been under scrutiny.

Earlier on Nov. 17, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers failed to certify its ballot count, deadlocking 2-2 along party lines. Then, in a dramatic reversal several hours later, they struck a compromise and sent the certified results along to the state board, which also contains two Republicans and two Democrats.

After that meeting, President Trump called Monica Palmer, one of two Republican members of the board, she told the Post on Nov. 19. She has asked to “rescind” her vote to certify the results.

Democrats have expressed anxiety that the Trump campaign’s moves to delay certification could allow some states to appoint their own electors.

Trump has also invited leaders from Michigan’s Republican-controlled state legislature to meet with him on Friday afternoon in Washington, according to a person familiar with those plans.

A look at the affidavits from poll watchers. The obscure county board at the center of U.S. politics.

Challenged in court

Mail ballots in Pa.

The Trump campaign was “not contending that there has been fraud, that there is evidence of fraud or that the ballots in question were not filled out by the elector in whose name the ballot was issued. ”

— Pennsylvania state court Judge James C. Crumlish, in an order rejecting five Trump challenges in Philadelphia, Nov. 13

Claim: Trump’s campaign lawyers had asked the courts to toss out almost 9,000 mail ballots in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties because voters had not written requested information such as their addresses or the date on the envelopes containing their ballots.

Fact: In Pennsylvania, the president’s campaign lost six separate efforts to block the counting of those ballots. Biden became president-elect when he was declared the winner of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes on Nov. 7. He leads Trump in the state by more than 73,000 votes. The Trump campaign has appealed Crumlish’s rulings to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

The Trump campaign’s legal defeats in Pennsylvania.

Other challenge

Postal Service ballot handling

“[The] Erie, Pa #Postal Service whistleblower completely RECANTED his allegations of a supervisor tampering with mail-in ballots after being questioned by investigators, according to IG. ”

Tweet from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Nov. 10

Claim: Pennsylvania postal worker Richard Hopkins alleged that two days after the election, he heard the Erie postmaster say to a supervisor that they had “messed up” by failing to backdate the postmark on ballots that arrived after Election Day.

Fact: Hopkins admitted to U.S. Postal Service investigators that his story was not true, and he signed an affidavit recanting the claim on Nov. 9, according to three officials who were briefed on the investigation. He later recanted his recantation, and Project Veritas — the organization that initially aired Hopkin’s claims — said he had been coerced by investigators into signing “a watered down statement drafted by them using their words.” But the recorded interview shows that federal agents repeatedly reminded Hopkins that his cooperation was voluntary and that Hopkins repeatedly expressed regret for signing an earlier affidavit attesting to the claims because it overstated what he witnessed. By then, the Trump campaign had cited Hopkins’s contentions in a lawsuit seeking to delay the certification of election results in Pennsylvania, part of a broad effort to overturn Biden’s win.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) also had cited Hopkins’s story of purported fraud in asking the Department of Justice to investigate. Attorney General William P. Barr subsequently authorized federal prosecutors to open probes in credible allegations of voting irregularities. The head of the Department of Justice’s Election Crimes Branch stepped down in protest, telling colleagues in an email that Barr’s directive violated a long-standing department policy intended to prevent political interference in election results.

Sixteen assistant U.S. attorneys wrote a letter to Barr saying his authorization “thrusts career prosecutors into partisan politics.” The signers, who all are assigned to monitor malfeasance in the 2020 election, wrote that they observed no evidence of the kind of fraud Barr addressed.

The Post’s investigation into the postal worker’s spiraling tale. Listen to federal agents interviewing Hopkins.

Other challenge

Drop boxes in Philadelphia

“It is lawful for people to act as agents on behalf of voters who cannot engage in the process of voting for themselves — due to illness, infirmity, etc. It is also lawful to drop mail in a mailbox on behalf of other people. ”

— Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Roh, Nov. 12

Claim: A video purports to show a woman putting at least three ballots into a ballot drop box on a Philadelphia street corner. Mike Roman, who is Trump’s campaign director of Election Day operations, circulated the video with a tweet that said “Literally STUFFING the ballot box in Philly! You are only allowed to deliver YOUR OWN ballot to a drop box!! Trying to STEAL THE ELECTION in broad daylight. ”

Fact: There is no evidence that any wrongdoing took place. In an email to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column, Roh confirmed that her office had reviewed the video on Election Day.

“Nothing in that video is conclusive of wrongdoing,” she wrote, adding, “Social media accusations of election interference from the Trump campaign and the Philly GOP circulated since Tuesday, including posts about this video, were never reported to authorities — which arguably raises questions about the actual intent of these posts. ”

The Associated Press previously reported that the Trump campaign filmed people in the Philadelphia area depositing ballots. The campaign said it was an attempt to catch violations, while the state’s attorney general suggested it might be illegal intimidation.

Fact-checking other viral videos full of misinformation.

Contributors to this report include Emma Brown, Anna Brugmann, Sarah Cahlan, David A. Fahrenthold, Tom Hamburger, Abigail Hauslohner, Amy Gardner, Meg Kelly, Hannah Knowles, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Keith Newell, Aaron Schaffer, Jon Swaine, Reis Thebault and Elise Viebeck.

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