Compiling the Truth: A Resource to Refute Trump’s “Stolen Election” Lies

Issues
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Donald Trump standing at a podium giving a speech
Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona on October 29, 2016. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Former President Trump’s lies that he won the 2020 election in a “sacred landslide,” and that the election was “stolen” from him, will continue to be a cancer in our body politic – detrimental to our democracy in both the short-term and the long-term. 

Trump’s “Stop the Steal” narrative is being used as a justification to roll back access to voting across the nation. And because this false narrative has been repeated so often by Trump and amplified by national news media friendly to him and by his supporters on social media, significant numbers of Trump voters still believe it. 

Trump’s claims of a stolen election are lies. As such, CLC will continue to share the truth about the 2020 election, and about our election systems in general.  

Below are some of CLC’s complied research to counter Trump’s lies.

Was there any evidence of widespread voter fraud?

No. To start,  credible sources have drafted fact check reports and studies on this issue: 

For the most part, the Trump legal team did not even dare bring fraud cases in court, for lack of evidence. Raising unproven assertions and then claiming they represent a widespread problem is a familiar playbook for those who want to dispute elections or take away access to voting.

Even Trump-appointed judges and attorneys, like William Barr, the former U.S. Attorney General, and Trump’s Acting U.S. Attorney in Northern Georgia, who was appointed as part of a Trump effort to more aggressively investigate allegations in that state, ended up concluding that there were no election irregularities sufficient to change the outcome.

Counting was done transparently across the country, with legitimate poll watchers from both major parties witnessing tallies, and with recounts and hand counts of ballots in closely contested states. In addition, audits have disproved allegations, including those involving signature match. Georgia, for example, under huge pressure from Trump to find “fraud” in mail voting, conducted an unprecedented audit of absentee ballot signatures in Cobb County—the “first of its kind in Georgia”—and affirmed that there were no fraudulent ballots or signatures.

Audits of election systems help to reassure te public, and more are on the way in states like Arizona. CLC and the democracy community have long been advocates for both better signature match policies and risk-limiting audits.

What about supposed details of some of the alleged grand schemes of voter fraud? 

Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro has compiled a number of these stolen election claims. Reporters have published rebuttals and counterarguments to the initial Navarro report.  This narrative is hard to neutralize in part because it’s so voluminous.

The “firehose of falsehood”—the intentional deluge of made-up clickbait meant to sow distrust and disorient people—has produced so many claims.

The Navarro report, for example, alleges a laundry list of outright voter fraud, which would constitute huge crimes if true. However, these allegations appear imaginary. Here’s an example: in his report, Navarro alleges, “destruction of legally cast real ballots” in Arizona. He cites one legal brief filed by Trump conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell in Arizona.

This case was dismissed on Dec. 9, 2020 (before the publication of the Navarro report). The judge wrote of the brief that its, “allegations are sorely wanting of relevant or reliable evidence” and “[p]laintiffs failed to provide the Court with factual support for their extraordinary claims”. This fate has been routine for these types of grand allegations.

“Planned” ballot drops didn’t change the vote totals to Biden. 

A common refrain in pro-Trump circles is how Trump appeared to be leading key vote counts on Election Night (when he wrongfully claimed victory), but by the following morning, Biden was gaining and pulling ahead in close states.

This is readily explained by the fact that it took more time to finish tallies of absentee ballots, as was totally expected, legal, and widely reported ahead of time, and that some states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—following procedures insisted on by their Republican-led state legislatures—prohibited the processing of absentee ballots when received ahead of Nov. 3.

As a result, these ballots had to be processed in the days following Election Day.

Meanwhile, in-person Election Day votes that were counted on election night favored Trump in key places (e.g. Pennsylvania and Georgia), as he had attempted to scare Republicans out of casting absentee ballots and urged his supporters to go to the polls in person.

Thus, Trump’s election night false “victory” claim was made in the full knowledge that more Trump votes than Biden votes had been counted in key places at that point, and that more Biden votes would be counted in the days ahead.

Was there enough time for judges to truly rule on the merits?

Yes. The various claims of evidence alleging a stolen 2020 election have been exhaustively investigated and litigated. Judges heard claims of illegal voting and found they were without merit.

Rep. Liz Cheney, the chair of the House Republican Conference, recently stated: "The president and many around him pushed this idea that the election had been stolen. And that is a dangerous claim. It wasn't true," she said. "There were over 60 court cases where judges, including judges appointed by President Trump and other Republican presidents, looked at the evidence in many cases and said there is not widespread fraud."

CLC’s researched the cases. Some, as referenced by Cheney, were withdrawn by the Trump team before the courts ever ruled or dismissed on procedural grounds. But many were decided on the merits. For a full case tracker, visit Election Law at Ohio State.

Post-Election Cases Decided on the Merits:

  • Trump v. Biden (Wis. Dec. 14, 2020) – In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court dismissed three of Trump’s four claims under the doctrine of laches. However, it decided on the merits Trump’s claim that voters wrongfully declared themselves indefinitely confined. Ultimately, the court ruled against Trump on this claim because Trump challenged the status of all voters who claimed an indefinitely confined status, rather than individual voters. Trump petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court for writ of certiorari on Dec. 29, 2020 with a motion for expedited consideration, but the court denied his motion to expedite on Jan. 11, 2021.  
  • Trump v. Wis. Elecs. Comm’n (E.D. Wis. Dec. 12, 2020) – The district court dismissed Trump’s claim that Wisconsin officials violated his rights under the Electors Clause because said officials allegedly issued guidance on state election statutes that deviated significantly from the requirements of Wisconsin’s election statutes. First, the court found that interpretations of election administration rules do not fall under the meaning of “Manner” in the Electors Clause. Moreover, even if “Manner” were read so broadly, the defendants had acted consistently with, and as expressly authorized by, the Wisconsin Legislature; their issued guidance did not significantly or materially depart from legislative direction. Thus, there was no violation of the Electors Clause. The U.S. Appeals Court for the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court’s opinion on Dec. 24, 2020. Trump filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 30, 2020 along with a motion for expedited consideration, and the court denied Trump’s motion to expedite on Jan. 11, 2021.  
  • King v. Whitmer (E.D. Mich. Dec. 7, 2020) – While the district court stated that the claims of plaintiffs—Republican presidential electors—could be dismissed for lack of standing, the district court nonetheless analyzed the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims. First, the district court was unpersuaded by the plaintiffs’ claim that defendants violated the Elections and Electors Clauses by allegedly violating the Michigan Election Code because it found that deviations from state election law are not the same as modifications of state election law. Second, the district court found the plaintiffs’ Equal Protection claim to be too speculative, finding no evidence that physical ballots were altered. The plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 11, 2020, and subsequently filed a motion for expedited consideration on Dec. 18, 2020. However, the court denied the motion to expedite on Jan. 11, 2021.  
  • Ward v. Jackson (Ariz. Sup. Ct., Maricopa Cnty. Dec. 4, 2020) – The superior court denied relief requested by the plaintiff in an election contest because the plaintiff failed to meet the evidentiary standard necessary for such a contest. First, plaintiff’s evidence failed to show fraud or misconduct—rather, it showed that the duplication process of the presidential election was 99.45% accurate, and that the inaccuracies were caused by human error. Moreover, the plaintiff’s evidence failed to show illegal votes or an erroneous vote count. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision on December 8, 2020. The plaintiff filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on December 11, 2020, and subsequently filed a motion for expedited consideration on the same day. However, the Court denied the motion to expedite on January 11, 2021.  
  • Law v. Whitmer (Nev. Dist. Ct., Carson City Dec. 4, 2020) – The district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ election contest on the merits. First, the plaintiffs—Republican presidential electors—failed to prove that there had been either a voting device malfunction or the counting of illegal/improper votes in a manner sufficient to raise reasonable doubt as to the election’s outcome. Next, the plaintiffs failed to prove that the election board or any of its members were guilty of malfeasance. Finally, the plaintiffs failed to prove that defendants had manipulated or altered the outcome of the election. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision on Dec. 8, 2020.  
  • Donald J. Trump for President v. Boockvar (M.D. Pa. Nov. 21, 2020) – While the district court found that Trump lacked standing, the court decided to touch upon the merits of his Equal Protection claim, ultimately rejecting the claim. The district court held that different counties implementing different types of notice-and-cure policies (many implementing none) did not violate the Equal Protection Clause because the clause does not require complete equality in all situations—“a classification resulting in ‘some inequality’ will be upheld unless it is based on an inherently suspect characteristic or ‘jeopardizes the exercise of a fundamental right.’” The district court highlighted the fact that the notice-and-cure policies adopted by certain counties imposed no burden on voters, and that it would be impossible to require every single county to administer elections in exactly the same way. The U.S. Court for Appeals for the 3rd Circuit affirmed this decision on Nov. 27, 2020.  
  • Wood v. Raffensperger (N.D. Ga. Nov. 20, 2020) – While the district court stated that the claims of a plaintiff—a registered voter—could be dismissed either for lack of standing or under the doctrine of laches, the court nonetheless ruled on the merits. First, the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s Equal Protection claim because there was no disparate treatment among Georgia voters. Next, the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s Elections and Electors Clauses claim because Secretary Brad Raffensperger had not overridden or rewritten any state law. Finally, the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s Due Process claim because there is no individual constitutional right to observe the electoral process (i.e., monitor an audit or vote recount). The U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit affirmed the district court’s opinion on Dec. 5, 2020. The plaintiff filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 8, 2020 and filed a motion for expedited consideration on the same day. However, the court denied the motion to expedite on Jan. 11, 2021.
  • Bower v. Ducey (D. Ariz. Dec. 9, 2020) – The district court largely dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint on the grounds of lack of standing. However, the court did touch upon the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims of fraud, ultimately finding that the plaintiffs’ claims were largely based on, “anonymous witnesses, hearsay, and irrelevant analysis of unrelated elections.” For one, the declarations from poll watchers that the plaintiffs provided as proof of fraud did not actually allege fraud at all, but rather simply raised concerns about the manner and process by which election officials matched signatures on absentee ballots. Moreover, none of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses stated that defendants committed any fraud; instead, they only provided speculative statements about what “could have” happened. Additionally, one of the plaintiffs’ experts relied on a study with no information about its author or methodologies involved. Finally, the court found the plaintiffs’ claim of alleged voting machine hacking to be unconvincing since the voting machines’ behavior could be easily explained by standard voting machine protocol. The plaintiffs filed an emergency petition for extraordinary writ of mandamus to the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 15, 2020, and the court denied the plaintiffs’ emergency petition on Jan. 11, 2021.
  • Costantino v. City of Detroit (3d Jud. Ct. Wayne Cnty. Nov. 13, 2020) – In denying the plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction, the court found that the plaintiffs’ claims of fraud would unlikely prevail on the merits. The court noted that many plaintiffs failed to include crucial information in their allegations, such as locations of alleged misconduct, frequency of alleged misconduct, names of those involved in alleged misconduct, and so on. Overall, the court found the plaintiffs’ claims of fraud to be speculative, filled with “guess-work,” and often unsubstantiated. Moreover, defendants provided a sufficient amount of evidence to convince the court that they had acted within the law. This decision was affirmed by the Michigan Court of Appeals on Nov. 16, 2020, and by the Michigan Supreme Court on Nov. 23, 2020.
  • Arizona Republican Party v. Fontes (Ariz. Sup. Ct., Maricopa Cty. Mar. 12, 2021) – The superior court ordered the Arizona Republican Party and its lawyers to pay legal fees for bringing a “groundless,” bad faith lawsuit challenging Maricopa County election procedures. The court noted that the relief plaintiff sought—an additional hand count of ballots—was not legally available due to the suit’s numerous procedural defects. The court found that plaintiff did not adequately assess the validity of their claims before filing the suit, and thus failed to prove that the county had inappropriately applied the statute in question. The court determined that plaintiff brought the suit for the “improper purpose” of undermining Arizonans’ confidence in election results, rather than to defend election integrity as they claimed.

Did voting machines switch thousands and thousands of votes?

No. Election infrastructure experts have found no evidence that voting machines were compromised or that they changed or deleted votes. A remarkable full statewide hand count of ballots in Georgia, confirming that there was no significant difference between voting machine totals and paper ballots, did the most to throw cold water on this conspiracy.

Dominion Voting Systems and recently Smartmatic have filed defamation suits, for false claims that their voting technology was rigged against Trump. Conservative media outlets, such as Newsmax, have already issued retractions and have rebutted guests on air, such as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who continue to promote these falsehoods.

The Washington Post has an informative article about Lou Dobbs' departure from Fox in the aftermath of false voting machine claims.

During the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference, a woman asked about voting machines that switched thousands and thousands of votes. Republican lawyer Charlie Spies tried to push back.

"I may get booed off the stage for this, but I have to say that's simply not true," he said. "There is just zero evidence that's true."

Various claims alleging statistical anomalies are not convincing.

Some people have been promoting statistical claims that supposedly provide evidence that the election results are suspect. In a new paper, three election scholars from the University of Chicago and Stanford do a thorough job of debunking them.

But the crowds show Trump should have won—so the election must have been stolen? 

The obvious answer is that crowds can indicate voter enthusiasm—but amid COVID-19, Trump conducted rallies and Biden did not, and Election Day tells us who actually voted. What we know is that 2020 saw the highest number of voters in U.S. history, and the highest percentage of eligible voters turn out since 1900. It is clear that Trump, and his performance as president, resulted in highly motivated voters on both sides. The result was that Trump got 11 million more votes than he did in 2016—but Biden exceeded Clinton’s total by more than 15 million and won the Electoral College.

post-election report by the Trump campaign’s own polling team, which reviewed Trump’s vote totals in 2016 and 2020, found that a vital element in Trump’s loss was the switch in allegiance of a crucial number of Republican and Independent suburban voters unhappy with Trump.

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