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Irony abounds on Trump’s bogus voter fraud claims in 2022 GOP primaries

Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz greets supporters May 17 in Newtown, Pa. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
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The early stages of the 2022 Republican primaries have served up a sizable dose of irony in re: GOP claims of fraud in the 2020 election — and, as it happens, in the very same states about which Donald Trump made his bogus 2020 claims.

The Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary on Tuesday remains unresolved; Trump-backed candidate Mehmet Oz holds a very narrow lead over Dave McCormick, before the counting of mail-in ballots.

Notably, Oz asserted his first lead of the race shortly after midnight on Wednesday, when a batch of votes from Bucks County helped him edge in front of McCormick.

Less than two years ago, such wee-hour “dumps” of ballots in Pennsylvania were cast by Trump as evidence of an election being stolen. After the 2020 election, Trump and his allies fought unsuccessfully to have all of the state’s 2.5 million mail ballots thrown out.

“It was 10 o’clock [on election night], and you looked at the numbers, and I’m sure you felt [I had won]; this election was over,” Trump said later on Fox News. “And then they did dumps. They called them dumps — big massive dumps in Michigan and Pennsylvania and all over.”

The situation in the 2022 Senate race isn’t nearly as pronounced as it was in 2020, when incomplete (and, thus, misleading) vote tallies, before ballots were counted in Philadelphia, showed Trump up by a big margin around midnight on election night. Then the count soon began to reflect Biden hacking away at Trump’s lead in an altogether-predictable (and even literally predicted) fashion, when those Philadelphia votes came in.

But such shifts were bound to be bigger in a Republican-vs.-Democrat race and given the heavily blue nature of Philadelphia, where vote totals were in line with what you would have expected. (They were actually friendlier for Trump than in 2016.) Yet Trump and his allies described the shift, far and wide, as suspicious.

This time, Trump’s candidate has been closing the gap, then edging ahead after midnight on election night, as more and more votes are reported — and for some reason this didn’t raise red flags for him.

The other irony in Pennsylvania is that this contest will now be decided by mail-in ballots. McCormick’s campaign is confident he will secure enough of a margin there to flip his deficit of about 2,500 votes. But we’re confronted by a situation in which Trump’s side could lose because of mail ballots — as he did in 2020 — after two years of crying foul over it.

Trump wasted little time Wednesday morning complaining about that. He even said Oz, who leads by just 0.2 percentage points, should just declare victory before people’s valid votes are actually counted.

It’s not clear whether Trump is going to cry “fraud” if his candidate does wind up losing thanks to those mail ballots, as opposed to merely complaining about Pennsylvania allowing mail voting and counting them so late.

But Pennsylvania wouldn’t be the first time this primary season that he and his allies will have looked past something that they once might have characterized as suspicious.

Last month’s GOP nominating convention in Michigan was thrown into chaos over a mix-up in how the races were listed on a screen that voters had to reference for casting ballots. Then, when they started the process over again as a result, they reportedly didn’t have enough extra ballots for everyone. One candidate for secretary of state who lost the eventual vote suggested that people might have inadvertently voted for the wrong candidate or departed without having their vote counted.

Several attendees complained that the party had botched the process and noted that the whole thing undercut their professed emphasis on election integrity.

A spokesman for the state party defended the process, attributing the mistake to “human error.” But some candidates have spoken about fighting the matter at a meeting of the party in August.

That phrase — “human error” — will be familiar to those scrutinizing Michigan’s elections. It was the same (very valid) explanation for a mix-up in how Antrim County, Mich., reported its Election Day votes in 2020. The mistake was quickly corrected, and the ultimate totals made sense. But that didn’t stop Trump and his allies from repeatedly citing the mistake as evidence of something nefarious with voting machines — a claim that has been repeatedly debunked not just by the courts but also by a report from a Republican state senator.

In Antrim County, the problem was that late changes to the ballot were not updated on voting machines. So because the two were mismatched — somewhat like the situation at the state GOP convention — the vote totals weren’t initially reported correctly.

The reason the irony here was especially thick: Two candidates who nabbed the party’s backing at last month’s convention, attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno and secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo, were instrumental in pushing debunked election theories. DePerno was actually a lawyer in the Antrim County case. Both have now parlayed that into running for statewide office.

But despite the problems, there was no outcry from the Trump-backed winners, as reported:

Neither seemed to have a problem with the integrity of Saturday’s vote — although both refused to take questions after making a statement to the press.