A father in Michigan signed his daughter’s ballot to send it in while she was at college.
This is all objectively the case. For every question that has emerged that begins with “Well, what about,” there is an answer that begins with either “That’s been debunked” or “That’s irrelevant.” Claims that the election was stolen depend on either the presumption it was and that evidence must therefore exist or on a willful lack of interest in the reality of the situation. That lack of interest often takes the form of reading paragraphs like this one and thinking, Well, sure, The Washington Compost would say that! To point out that the election wasn’t stolen is often by itself a reason to reject the publication or individual pointing it out, making it difficult to overcome the untrue belief that so many want to believe.
That’s a question that’s been explored with some regularity since the election: How many people actually believe that President Biden’s election wasn’t legitimate? New polling from CNN, conducted by SSRS, answers that question.
About 3 in 10 Americans think Biden didn’t legitimately win, despite the utter lack of evidence to bolster that claim. More alarmingly, 1 in 5 believe there’s actually solid evidence that Biden didn’t win, which there is not. And more alarming still, that position — that there’s this solid evidence the election was stolen — is held by half of Republicans.
You just sort of have to throw up your hands. It’s like repeatedly trying to persuade your friend not to send their bank account information to firstname.lastname@example.org just because they recently learned that an uncle they’d never heard of left them a fortune. At some point you just have to resign yourself to the fact that your buddy’s going to lose a few thousand dollars. People are far, far better at coming up with rationalizations for their emotions than they are at tempering their emotions based on rational considerations. Sometimes you just have to wait for the train wreck.
Or, if you’re a cynical sort, you can exploit it. CNN also asked respondents to identify which was a more potent problem in American elections, voter fraud or rules making it too hard to vote. Responses were about evenly split but varied widely by party. Among Republicans, 4 in 5 said the former was the bigger problem.
It’s not the case that respondents were simply picking between two things they found equally unthreatening. Three percent of Republicans said neither is a problem. That suggests the vast majority of Republicans think illegal voting is a significant problem, which it isn’t.
It just … isn’t. It happens, sure; there are occasions in which guys like that Michigan father vote illegally inadvertently. There are other occasions in which someone knowingly votes illegally. On rare occasions, someone tries to systematically commit fraud, as apparently occurred for a Republican candidate in North Carolina in 2018 or for Democrats in New Jersey last year. But these instances are vanishingly infrequent, both overall and specifically in mail-in balloting. Not only is there no evidence that Biden’s win wasn’t legitimate — a claim that demands tens of thousands of fraudulently cast votes — there’s no credible evidence of fraud at even a fraction of that scale.
Yet Republican legislators are moving forward as though there is. On Thursday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a new law scaling back voting access, despite Trump winning that state and despite there being no demonstrated examples of substantial fraud. The Republican base has been convinced by Trump and others that some widespread, nefarious conspiracy stole the presidential election from Trump; Florida and other states respond by scaling back drop boxes and tightening absentee ballot rules. They’re small changes that will necessarily make it harder to vote, not sweeping changes uprooting fraudulent activity. Because, you know, that doesn’t happen to any significant degree.
It’s all this gauzy interplay of rhetoric and response. Republicans feel like fraud happened and believe that there’s evidence it did, so legislators who are happy to limit voting opportunities leverage that sense to offer up changes they present as vaguely centered on the base’s concerns. It’s like a guy in the year 1100 worrying that the clouds will become animate and devour him and his village mystic handing him a pendant that will prevent that from happening. Maybe that guy had strong evidence that the clouds would eat him and maybe the mystic was trying to get rid of the pendant anyway, so everyone comes away happy.
Except, you know: reality.