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Trump’s never-ending parade of election falsehoods

At a rally on Oct. 9, 2021, in Des Moines, former president Donald Trump continued to unleash a litany of false and unproven claims of voter fraud in 2020. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

“All of these calamities are the direct, predictable and disastrous consequence of a totally corrupt election.”

— Former president Donald Trump, during a speech in Des Moines, Oct. 9

During a nearly two-hour speech Saturday night, filled with his usual falsehoods, the former president devoted more than 20 minutes to claiming, in detail, how the 2020 presidential election supposedly was stolen from him. This is a claim that has failed to be proven in recounts, in the courts, in state investigations and in repeated audits demanded by his supporters. Yet the former president remains undeterred.

We’ve largely ignored Trump’s rallies since he left office. But given that nearly a year has passed since he lost the election, we figured it would be useful for readers to see whether he’s saying much new about it. Trump’s technique from the start has been to overwhelm his listeners with details — usually irrelevant details — to leave an impression of an election system that is highly suspicious and fraudulent.

Trump generally focuses on the swing states he narrowly lost. One thing that is striking is that his act barely has been freshened since his speech on the National Mall in D.C. on Jan. 6 that was soon followed by the attack on the Capitol by his supporters. The one exception is Arizona, where an audit underwritten by supporters has given him some fresh numbers for his assault on the election process.

Let’s look at the highlights by state. (On Saturday, he barely mentioned one swing state, Wisconsin, except to mention a poll he disliked.)


“23,344 mail-in ballots came from people who no longer lived at that address. … No chain of custody for 1.9 million mail-in ballots. … 2,500 duplicated ballots with no serial number. … At least 1,900 blank mail-in ballot envelopes were discovered. … 2,081 votes were cast by people who had moved out of the state. … 284,412 ballot images were, quote, corrupt; they quoted ‘corrupt or missing.' Oh, but I only lost by a little more than 10,000 votes.”

This is a good example how Trump weaves a web of conspiracy. He lists a bunch of a highly specific numbers, most of which are meaningless, and then contrasts them with President Biden’s narrow margin of victory.

Interestingly, Arizona was one state where Biden’s margin shrank from election night as the counting continued. Trump never mentions this, though he constantly harps on the fact that in other states, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, his election night margin disappeared as more votes were counted. In the end, Biden pulled off a victory in Arizona — and it was not due to fraud but probably because of Trump’s constant attacks on Sen. John McCain, even after he died of cancer. McCain was a Republican but his widow endorsed Biden.

In Arizona, Trump supporters spent nearly $6 million on an exhaustive review of ballots in Maricopa County — and the widely criticized review actually ended up increasing Biden’s margin of victory. But the audit, conducted by the Cyber Ninjas, also gave Trump a new set of numbers with which to confuse his supporters.

We’re not going to go into detail, but let’s look at a few examples.

Trump said that 23,344 mail-in ballots came from people who no longer lived at that address. So what? This is legal under federal election law. For instance, military and overseas voters cast ballots that can be tied to their address back home. Also, people may move just before an election; they can still vote as long as their driver’s license address still matches the voter registration address. In any case, the Cyber Ninjas came up with this number by matching the names of voters against a commercial database of addresses, not a database of voters.

As for the 2,081 voters who allegedly moved out of state, Maricopa County says that a spot check using voter registration numbers found no discrepancies.

Trump also mentions 2,500 “duplicated ballots with no serial numbers.” That was a figure that circulated in right-wing tweets when the draft report appeared, but the final report says 500 — and labels the issue of “low” concern.

As for the “corrupt or missing” ballot images (Trump yet again gave a figure different than in the final report), Maricopa County said the Cyber Ninjas did not know where to look. “The server isn’t the place to find all ballot images. We provided the hard drives that contain all ballot images and confirmed these images were not corrupted and could be opened,” the county said in a tweet.


“It was recently reported that 43,000 absentee ballot votes were counted in DeKalb County, Georgia, that violated the chain of custody rules. 43,000. Georgia was decided by only 11,779 votes. In other words, I needed 11,779 votes. And they have 40,000 here and 20,000 here.”

Here again, Trump is kicking up dust to call into question his narrow loss in Georgia. This time, he has numbers courtesy of a Trump-friendly website called Georgia Star News — which is part of a chain of websites that purport to be about local news but exist mainly to keep alive Trump’s election falsehoods in key electoral college states.

As we have reported before, the Star News has attempted to make hay out of chain-of-custody issues all year, even though the GOP-run secretary of state’s office says nothing of importance had been uncovered. DeKalb County is a heavily Democratic county that is more than 50 percent Black. The Georgia Star News alleges that although ballots are supposed to go from the drop boxes immediately to the county, some absentee ballot box forms were not logged by the county until hours later or the next day.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told CNN that, even so, ballots were still valid. “The ballots themselves were approved and are lawful ballots, but were processes violated? That’s what we’re investigating right now,” he said.

“Also in Georgia, everybody’s heard the water main break story, right? Where people were rushed out of the vote tabulation room because of the water main break. ‘There’s a water main break, everybody leave.’ They all ran out, but there was no water main break. Only to see a crew of Democrat operatives, or whoever, come back and start pouring votes into machines from boxes that mysteriously appeared from under a table.”

This story is one of Trump’s favorite falsehoods — that Republican poll watchers were ejected in Fulton County and that video showed suitcases of ballots had been hidden under tables — but it’s been repeatedly debunked.

First of all, there was no “water main break.” A urinal simply leaked in the State Farm Arena, where absentee and military ballots were counted in the state.

The Fact Checker investigated at the time and the surveillance video — which comprises four security camera feeds — showed no irregularities, illegal behavior or evidence of malfeasance on behalf of poll workers. The “boxes” have been repeatedly identified by election officials as the standard boxes used in Fulton County to transport and store ballots.

Additionally, the video doesn’t even prove Trump’s assertion that GOP monitors were told to leave the counting room for poll workers to engage in illegal ballot counting. Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, at the time said no formal announcement to clear the room was ever made. Sterling added that the full surveillance feed shows workers handling ballots that were stored and processed in full view of the news media and partisan monitors earlier in the evening.

“This is what’s really frustrating: The president’s legal team had the entire tape,” Sterling said. “They watched the entire tape. They intentionally misled the state Senate, the voters and the people of the United States about this.” Sterling’s office posted a fact check with excerpts from the entire tape.


“In Pennsylvania, there were reportedly hundreds of thousands of more votes than there were voters. Oh, I see Philadelphia, more votes than voters. That’s a tough one to explain. Why didn’t they do something about that?”

This falsehood is based on a misunderstanding of an incomplete voter registration database, which was missing numbers for some of the most populous counties in the state. “To put it simply, this so-called analysis was based on incomplete data,” said Pennsylvania’s Department of State, which labeled the claim “obvious misinformation.”

A small group of Republican state representatives began to circulate this claim about a month after Pennsylvania’s election results were certified and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) had issued a certificate of ascertainment of presidential electors stating that Biden received 80,555 more votes than Trump in the state.

“In Pennsylvania, thousands of voters reported receiving at least two ballots in the mail, and many others reported receiving mail-in ballots without requesting them. They just happened to flow in. They flowed in on Election Day.”

Trump is again making mountains out of molehills. In October, some voters in Allegheny and Fayette counties received incorrectly printed ballots. In both cases, election officials issued corrected ballots and made clear: “Only one ballot will be counted for each voter.” The state also contacted in October about 4,300 voters who received two ballots, due to a printing error. Department of State spokesperson Ellen Lyon told reporters that any duplicate ballots were “coded for the same voter, so if a voter tried to submit more than one, the system would literally prevent the second ballot from being counted.”

“Thousands of people were complaining that they weren’t allowed to vote because they were told that their ballot had already been cast.”

This has been a persistent claim by Trump in various states — that Trump supporters went to vote, only to find their ballot had already been cast (presumably by Democratic operatives) and thus they were given a provisional ballot.

But no evidence has ever emerged to prove this. For instance, Trump’s chief lawyer, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, suggested that 17,000 provisional ballots were cast in Pittsburgh because Democrats had already cast fraudulent ballots on behalf of someone who unexpectedly turned up to vote. But there is no evidence that is the case; instead, there were a variety of issues, such as a missing signature on a form, that cause a provisional ballot to be used.


“In Michigan, the legislature found that over 300,000 people were listed on the voter rolls, even though they hadn’t voted in over 20 years.”

This is another figure that is meaningless to the 2020 election result — especially if these people did not vote in the election.

“Oh, and again in Detroit, which is known as the single most corrupt election venue in the country for many years, but nobody went to look at that. There were many more votes than there were voters.”

Detroiters cast 257,619 ballots in the Nov. 3 election. There are 506,305 registered voters in the city. This falsehood is based on a ridiculous misunderstanding: An affidavit filed in a Georgia election case that made this claim mixed up two states that started with “Mi.” The precincts were not in Wayne County, Mich., but in some of the reddest parts of Minnesota — Trump country.

Our colleague Aaron Blake further dug into the data and found that even in those Minnesota precincts, the data in the affidavit was off. Minnesota has same-day registration and very high turnout rates. Blake determined that the number of voters matched the number of votes cast. He speculated that the affidavit might have been relying upon incomplete “estimated voters” data from the Minnesota secretary of state in the days after the election. Trump’s allies also tried to blame the “overvote” problem on Dominion voting machines but the counties in Minnesota in question did not use Dominion machines.

This is a prime example of the incompetence of the president’s legal team in the aftermath of the election. But astonishingly, almost a year later, Trump is still making this claim.


“No presidential candidate has ever lost an election while winning Florida, Ohio and a place called Iowa. First time it’s ever happened.”

Trump again is suggesting something fishy happened. But he needs to brush up on his electoral college history.

Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, won Florida, Ohio and Iowa in 1960 — and lost to John F. Kennedy, a Democrat. In 1960, the three states totaled 45 electoral college votes and in 2020, they amounted to 53 electoral college votes.

The Pinocchio Test

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