The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Guess what? There (still) wasn’t any significant fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Steve Sawye demonstrates outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in Washington. (Amanda Voisard for The Washington Post)

It’s been more than a year since the 2020 presidential election ended according to the calendar, though, according to the guy who clearly and unquestionably lost that election, Donald Trump, things are still up in the air. For 400 days, Trump has been promising sweeping evidence of rampant voter fraud in that election. It’s eternally just around the corner, a week away. Two. It’s his white whale and his Godot. It’s never secured; it never arrives.

Yet there he was, offering the same excuse once again when asked by the Associated Press. The occasion was AP’s exhaustive assessment of the 2020 election in which they uncovered fewer than 500 questionable ballots. Questionable! Not demonstrably fraudulent, but questionable. But Trump, never bound to reality, waved it away.

“He said a soon-to-come report from a source he would not disclose would support his case,” the AP reported Trump promising, yet again. He did respond with one pithy quote: “I just don’t think you should make a fool out of yourself by saying 400 votes.”

Yeah, imagine how embarrassing it would be to be wrong about the extent of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Those 473 votes tallied by the Associated Press was the result of queries sent to county officials in six states, all won by Joe Biden. That figure includes 98 votes in Nevada, the upper end of a range of possible dubious ballots in that state, so the actual figure is even lower. Most of the cases involve potential double voting, of the sort that led to criminal charges in Florida on Tuesday. The accused individuals in those cases were registered Republicans, a reminder that even on the rare occasions that fraud occurs, it’s not necessarily done to benefit Joe Biden.

Even if every one of those 473 cases was an actual example of fraud, it’s out of a total of 25.6 million cast ballots. In other words, if you began counting votes a minute after midnight on New Year’s Day, you wouldn’t encounter a fraudulent vote on average until a bit before 2 p.m. on Feb. 7. In Michigan, it would take until the evening of March 10. If you picked a ballot at random out of all of those cast, you’d have a 1 in 54,000 chance of picking one of the disputed ones. Should that happen, be careful walking home: The odds of being run over by a car are better than that.

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We can present the scale visually. Below, the large gray squares represent the total ballots cast in a state. The lighter squares are the number of ballots that constituted Biden’s margin of victory. The red squares — which I assure you are there — represent the ballots that were flagged in AP’s analysis.

It often takes a while for states and counties to adjudicate dubious ballots. It’s a lengthy process, matching cast votes with actual voters. But it has been more than 13 months since the election ended and counties have a much better sense now of how often votes might have been cast illegally. In sum: fewer than 500, or fewer than the number of people who serve in the House and Senate. Fewer than the number of people it takes to handle the balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Fewer than the number of people who would ride on a single subway train during rush hour, pre-pandemic.

So here we are, 406 days after the presidential election. On the one hand, we have multiple state-level reviews conducted by Trump allies suggesting that the vote totals in contested states was legitimate. There has been no person who has stepped forward and admitted participation in any sort of scheme to throw the election and no discovery of rampant, coordinated fraud save for an effort to cast ballots in Macomb County, Mich., that constitutes most of AP’s total from that state — an effort that didn’t actual result in ballots being counted. And then there’s AP’s broad analysis of the vote in all six states that found only piecemeal problems.

On the other hand, we have a guy who was documented as having said false things tens of thousands of times while serving as president continuing to insist that proof of wide-scale fraud is just around the corner.

“I can’t go on like this,” moans Estragon.

“That’s what you think,” Vladimir replies.