“Such a shame to see Terry McAuliffe indicate he will end Virginia’s routine election audits. … Virginia law requires voting machine audits. Not a surprise McAuliffe opposes audits.”

— Glenn Youngkin, Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate, in a Twitter thread, Oct. 6

Sometimes the best defense is offense — unless it’s nonsense.

That’s the situation here. Youngkin, in his race against former governor Terry McAuliffe (D), has straddled a fine line between appearing to echo former president Donald Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election (especially during the GOP primary) and saying the election results in Virginia were not in dispute (during the general election). Only after he secured the nomination did Youngkin say that President Biden had won the 2020 election.

Trump lost Virginia by 10 percentage points in 2020, and the state turned increasingly blue during his presidency. But the former president remains popular in the red parts of the state necessary for a GOP victory. McAuliffe, for his part, has tried to tie the former equity investor to Trump at every turn to motivate his voters to come to the polls.

Last week, McAuliffe seized on a statement Youngkin made during a virtual forum with the Richmond Crusade for Voters, which promotes voting by Black voters, that seemed to lean in the Trumpian direction. In response, Youngkin, without evidence, accused McAuliffe of opposing election audits — even though the audit process was strengthened during McAuliffe’s 2014-2018 term as governor.

The Facts

The first question asked of Youngkin in the Oct. 5 forum was whether he would support laws similar to those in Georgia and Texas that Democrats say are designed to make it harder for minorities to vote. Youngkin did not address the question directly but offered ideas to improve voter trust in elections, such as making the Virginia Department of Elections an independent agency, updating voter rolls and requiring a photo ID to vote.

Those are mostly standard-issue Republican talking points. But then he veered in a Trumpian direction.

“I think we need to make sure that people trust these voting machines,” Youngkin remarked. “And I just think, like, I grew up in a world where you have an audit every year. In businesses, you have an audit. So let’s just audit the voting machines, publish it so everybody can see it.”

As part of Trump’s campaign to sow distrust about the 2020 election, he has falsely claimed that voting machines were rigged to change votes from Republican to Democrat, and he has pressed allies in key states to conduct “audits” of the election results, even after they had been verified as correct.

Indeed, Virginia already has a regular “risk-limiting” audit of election results, which examine a sample of ballots to check for statistical anomalies. The results of the 2020 audit were released March 31. “The audit confirmed that the original count of the votes accurately reflected the winners in Virginia for both the United States Presidential and Senate races,” the report said.

During the second and final debate with McAuliffe, on Sept. 28, Youngkin had said that the results in Virginia were “certifiably fair” and that there wasn’t “material fraud.”

After Youngkin’s comment attracted news coverage, a Youngkin spokesman insisted the remarks were not new — “he will ensure Virginia continues to conduct audits and that they are thorough, efficient and accurate” — but the damage was done. In fact, a political action committee associated with Trump sent an email headlined: “ICYMI: ‘Youngkin calls for audit of voting machines in Virginia.’ ”

McAuliffe immediately cut a digital ad calling attention to Youngkin’s comments. “Glenn Youngkin: putting Trump’s agenda first,” the ad declared.

Hence, Youngkin posted his Twitter thread.

In it, Youngkin tried to turn the tables and say that McAuliffe would “end Virginia’s routine election audits” and “opposes audits.” The second tweet oddly linked to the Virginia law requiring annual audits of voting machines — which showed it had been updated under a 2017 measure sponsored by a Republican lawmaker and signed into law by McAuliffe.

Note that the first tweet included the weaselly word “indicate,” suggesting that McAuliffe did not actually make a specific statement. So what’s the evidence for the claims in Youngkin’s Twitter thread, specifically that McAuliffe would end routine election audits?

A Youngkin spokesman pointed to a tweet by McAuliffe, which was posted about two hours before Youngkin’s Twitter thread.

But the tweet does not suggest McAuliffe is against audits of voting machines. He is simply against a second audit of the type pursued by Trump associates in states such as Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In Arizona, Trump supporters spent nearly $6 million on an exhaustive review of millions of ballots — and the widely criticized review actually ended up increasing Biden’s margin of victory.

Despite our requests, the Youngkin campaign did not offer any other evidence to back up Youngkin’s claims.

The Pinocchio Test

Youngkin’s balancing act of appealing to moderate Republicans while not turning off Trump supporters has mostly succeeded, making this a competitive race. But here he stumbled.

His campaign sought to make up for the fumble by simply fabricating a claim about McAuliffe, even though the former governor signed the very law that Youngkin cited in his tweet. Youngkin earns Four Pinocchios.

Four Pinocchios

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