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, continues 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. 

It has also led to attempts by partisan actors to revisit certified state election results – as the Republican majority in the Arizona Senate is doing now after it hired an unqualified firm to do a non-professional "review" of the ballots in Arizona's largest county (which voted for Biden.) Similar partisan efforts are being proposed in other states, paid for by political funds. 

"...I find myself absolutely gobsmacked that today’s party is shaping itself around the Big Lie that Democrat Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election," wrote historian Heather Cox-Richardson in the April 18 installment of her blog. "This is a lie. There is no doubt that this is a lie. Trump or his surrogates filed and lost at least 63 lawsuits over the 2020 election, most of which were dropped for lack of evidence." 

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.  

The Ongoing Battle Over Trump’s Claims Highlights Their Continued Relevance

Months after President Biden was declared the victor of the 2020 presidential election, Trump’s lies about the election continue to put Republican leaders and elected officials at the local, state and national levels in a tough spot.

Rejecting Biden’s victory and showing loyalty to Trump has alarmingly become a litmus test for the party, and state and local officials who did their job by certifying the presidential election results find themselves facing backlash – if not outright estrangement, with some having been forced out of their positions. The Washington Post has a good article covering this.

In Michigan, Republicans decided to replace a state canvasser, Aaron Van Langevelde, after he voted to certify Biden’s win, and in Georgia, a law has been enacted that would enable the Republican-controlled state legislature to take over county election boards, in apparent retaliation for the honorable role those officials played in 2020.

The Price Rep. Liz Cheney has Paid for Demanding Leaders Tell the Truth About the 2020 Election

Republicans at the national level are facing similar pressures, and if they do stand up to defend the integrity of the 2020 elections, they can face professional consequences. This can be seen most clearly with Rep. Liz Cheney, the former number three Republican in the House of Representatives, who has publicly defended Biden’s win more adamantly than any other congressional Republican.

Rep. Liz Cheney, the former chair of the House Republican Conference, stated on February 23: "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." 

According to a CNN article published on May 3, Rep. Cheney told an audience of donors, scholars and politicians, “We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy… We can’t whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump’s big lie. It is a threat to democracy.”

Now, due to her refusal to back the stolen elections claims, Rep. Cheney has lost her leadership position within the House Republican conference and could be forced to compete against a primary challenger from her own party.

An article from The Washington Post published on May 11 highlights how Rep. Cheney losing her leadership position is linked to the Republican party's efforts to define loyalty at the local, state and federal levels as commitment to perpetuating Trump's election lies: 

“[s]tate and local Republican parties have stepped up efforts to revamp election rules on the basis of Trump’s claims 2020 was tainted by widespread fraud, for which Trump’s Justice Department found no evidence.

In the following three paragraphs, the same article from The Washington Post went on to state that, "Echoing those charges isn’t just about salving Trump’s wounded feelings, much as Cheney’s comments have seemed to tick him off personally.

It’s also become the credo for Republicans driving the changes to state election laws: Fraud determined the outcome of the 2020 vote, therefore we must take steps to reassure voters there will not be fraud in the future, here are steps to do so. 

It’s not true. But it’s so powerful, even GOP officials who say there was no fraud in their state are approving laws to fix a problem they have said doesn’t exist. Exhibit A: Florida.”

Despite the consequences for her personally, Rep. Cheney has continued to stick up for the truth regarding the 2020 election. She wrote in an op-ed published by The Washington Post on May 5, "History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be."

Below CLC has compiled has compiled some research to counter Trump's lies. 

COMMON QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE 2020 ELECTION RESULTS

Was There Any Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud?

No. To start, credible sources have drafted factcheck 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 officials, such as William Barr, then the U.S. Attorney General, and the 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. President Trump famously fired Christopher Krebs, the who headed the U.S. Government’s office monitoring the security of the election, when he concluded that, “The 2020 election was the most secure in U.S. history.”

Was the Fact that Biden Overtook Trump in Key States in the Days following the Election the Result of a Nefarious Plot? Or When States Counted Ballots?

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 sometimes described by Trump supporters as a “planned ballot dump.”

However, the reality is simply 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, 2020.

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 former chair of the House Republican Conference, stated on February 23: "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 Rep. 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 January 11. 
  • 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 January 11.
  • 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 January 11.
  • 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 Dec. 8, 2020. The plaintiff 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 the same day. However, the Court denied the motion to expedite on January 11.
  • 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 January 11.
  • 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 January 11.
  • 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. March 12) – 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.

Given the sheer number of election-related cases that lacked merit, federal judges in states like Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin have begun moving to consider and potentially implement sanctions against the lawyers that submitted them. For instance, according to a July 16 article from The Washington Post, as recently as July 12, a federal judge in Michigan began questioning Sidney Powell and eight other pro-Trump lawyers to decide whether to sanction the group for submitting a lawsuit crafted on false information that sought to overturn the results of the presidential election. 

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 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.

The Washington Post also has an article on how Republican operative, Russel J. Ramsland, and his company Allied Security Operations Group manufactured many of the most insidiously fraudulent claims about issues with voting machines in the 2020 presidential election. The article describes how Ramsland's claims predated the actual results of the presidential election, revealing more about his distrust of voting machines than issues with the election itself. 

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."

What About the Alleged Claim That an Italian Defense Contractor Conspired With CIA Officials to Use Satellite Technology to Switch Votes from Trump to Biden to Swing the Election’s Result?

This claim, also known as “Italygate” overwhelmingly appears to be unfounded. According to an article from The Washington Post published on June 19, two firms led by Virginia business executive Michele Roosevelt Edwards have promoted this outlandish theory. USAerospace Partners, one of Edwards’ companies, pulled from fantastical claims circulated by a conservative Italian media pundit, a Virginia based commentator on intelligence matters and others, to write a letter about Italygate. In December 2020, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows emailed acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen the letter, which is how this idea went from being speculation by those in the fringes to something being circulated by officials in the highest level of government.

Nevertheless, the conservative Italian media pundit whose article initiated this conspiracy theory has since concluded it was false, telling the Post it was “fake news, a conspiracy theory, [a] poisoned chalice.” A U.S. Justice Department official similarly opined to acting attorney general Rosen that the claim seemed unfounded.

Michele Roosevelt Edwards, who promoted the conspiracy theory, has a history of spreading falsehoods. For example, on Nov. 3, 2020, Edwards did an interview with a television crew from Iceland at the historic North Wales Farm, a 22-bedroom mansion in Warrenton, Virginia, where she told the crew, falsely, that the $30 million estate belonged to her. However, North Wales was then — and still is now — owned by a company formed by retired financier David B. Ford, who died in September 2020. When the Post contacted Ford’s widow, she was surprised to find out that Edwards had ever been in the mansion because Edwards’ firm was not hired to sell off the property following Ford’s death.

What About the Alleged Grand Schemes of Voter Fraud Compiled by Former Trump Advisor Peter Navarro? 

Peter Navarro has published a three-volume series of reports that purport to show that Trump really won the election. Reporters have published rebuttals and counterarguments to the initial Navarro report, as well as rebuttals to his subsequent compilations. 

The “firehose of falsehood”—the intentional deluge of made-up clickbait meant to sow distrust and disorient people—has produced a sizable amount of dubious claims, and Navarro’s work is no different. The initial 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.

Have Audits Validated the Election's Outcome?

Counting was done transparently across the country, with poll watchers from both major parties witnessing tallies, and with recounts and hand counts of ballots in closely contested states. Importantly, audits have disproved allegations, including those involving signature match. Georgia, under huge pressure from Trump to find "fraud" in mail-in 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. 

Similarly, on April 28, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, announced that her office had found zero "evidentiary support" for claims of fraud or bias following a rigorous audit of the state's elections. CLC and the democracy community have long been advocates for both better signature match policies and risk-limiting audits. 

What Is Going On With the Maricopa County Audit Being Conducted by Cyber Ninjas, and Why Might It increase Rather Than Assuage People's Concerns About Election Integrity in Arizona?

Maricopa County, Arizona conducted a hand recount of ballots and accredited forensic auditors have completed reviews finding no evidence of widespread fraud. However, half a year after Trump’s presidential defeat, Republican state Senators have launched their own highly questionable “election audit” in the county, claiming that they are not seeking to overturn the election results in Arizona (that is not legally possible now) but rather to “inform” future legislative actions. They have hired a company—Cyber Ninjas—to do the audit: This is an entity that has never done an election audit before, and which is headed by someone who has publicly supported Trump’s national effort to cast doubt on the 2020 election results. The group has not disclosed where their funding comes from. They have taken control of the machines and ballots and their methods of doing a recount are not transparent and have been questioned. The outcome of the audit is still unknown as of this writing, but Cyber Ninja’s lack of transparency is likely to decrease, rather than promote, confidence in the process. As Hayden Johnson, legal counsel, voting rights at Campaign Legal Center (CLC) said in an interview on April 27, it seems that Cyber Ninjas is “trying to manufacture reasons to make voting harder for Arizona’s voters in the future, not to look at the 2020 election.”

On May 5, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sent a letter highlighting a series of problems that she said observers from her office have witnessed with the audit. This included ballots being left unattended on counting tables and open, unlocked laptop computers being left to sit around without supervision. Additionally, on May 5, Pamela Karlan, the principal deputy assistant attorney general with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, stated in a letter to the Arizona state Senate president that the department's review, "raises concerns" and asked the Arizona Senate to provide information to ensure federal laws were not being violated. The same letter stated that it seemed that ballots were, “not being adequately safeguarded by contractors at an insecure facility, and are at risk of being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed.”

Republicans in other states have also wanted to do dubious “audits” like the one in Arizona, but state officials have already conducted investigations and have not found evidence of fraud in those states either.

How Have Arizona Election Officials Responded to Claims About Election Fraud and Issues With the Cyber Ninjas Audit?

In the May 16 installment of her blog, historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote, “Cheney is not the only Republican who is turning on the former president and his loyalists. On May 15, Trump posted a statement claiming that ‘the entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona’—where the bizarre ‘audit’ is underway—'has been DELETED!’ The statement goes on to make sweeping claims about ‘this unbelievable Election crime,’ and so on.

But, in real time, the Republican recorder of Maricopa County wrote on Twitter in response to Trump’s statement: ‘Wow. this is unhinged,’ Stephen Richer said. ‘I’m literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now.’ He went on: ‘We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country. This is as readily falsifiable as 2+2=5. If we don’t call this out….’ 

And Maricopa County did call it out. In a remarkable Twitter thread, the Maricopa County official account destroyed the effort by the private company Cyber Ninjas to recount the 2020 votes in that county. ‘The 2020 elections were run w/ integrity, the results certified by the county & state were accurate, & the 2 independent audits conducted by the County are the true final word on the subject,’ the account said. ‘We know auditing. The Senate Cyber Ninja audit is not a real audit.’ The account went on to list all the many ways in which this audit is simply a propaganda effort to shore up the Big Lie that the election was stolen.”

In the May 18 installment of her blog, Heather Cox-Richardson discussed a scathing letter that Maricopa County Board of Supervisors sent to the president of the Arizona Senate, Karen Fann, on May 17.

Specifically, Heather Cox-Richardson wrote, "Yesterday, the Maricopa County, Arizona, Board of Supervisors sent a spectacular letter to Karen Fann, the president of the Arizona Senate that authorized the 'audit' of the ballots cast in Maricopa County by the private company Cyber Ninjas. The 14-page letter tore apart the entire project, pointing out that the Cyber Ninjas are utterly ignorant of election procedures. 

It is a devastating take down, saying, for example: 'You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con-artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call ‘kinematic artifacts’ while shining purple lights for effect.' It concludes by begging Fann 'to recognize the obvious truth: your ‘auditors’ are in way over their heads. They do not have the experience necessary to conduct an audit of an election. They do not know the laws, nor the procedures, nor the best practices. It is inevitable that they will arrive at questionable conclusions. It is time to end this. For the good of the Senate, for the good of the Country and for the good of the Democratic institutions that define us as Americans.'”

Then, when briefing the Arizona State Senate on July 15, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, Doug Logan, made claims that, “that were immediately called into question by the county and independent experts,” according to a CNN article published on July 18. First, Logan said that there were over seventy thousand mail-in ballots that had no record of having been sent. While Logan admitted that this could be a “clerical error” instead of fraud, county election officials argue that in-person early voting could explain the gap. Garret Archer, an election analyst at a local Pheonix news station and a former official in the Arizona secretary of state's office, found that more than 99% of the ballots could be accounted for in the list of ballots submitted in person. Furthermore, Logan also claimed that Maricopa County stopped verifying voters’ signatures during the election process, when the county in fact did not. Stephen Richer, the Republican county recorder for Maricopa County, responded by tweeting from the county recorder’s official Twitter account, "At no point during the 2020 election cycle did Maricopa County modify the rigorous signature verification requirements. Any suggestion to the contrary is categorically false." 

But the Pre-election Crowds Show Trump Had Huge Support, So the Election Must Have Been Stolen? 

The obvious answer is that crowds can indicate voter enthusiasm—but amid COVID-19, Trump conducted in-person 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 2016 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.

Why Do Trump’s Lies About the Election Being Stolen Matter Over the Long Term for Our Democracy?

Trump’s lies focus attention on nonexistent problems while distracting us from very real threats to our democracy, and they stand to continue to threaten safe and accessible elections for all. For instance, many election bills responding to false allegations of fraud in the 2020 elections do not focus on using paper ballots or having voting machines that generate paper records for verification, like security experts have recommended; instead, they emphasize restricting Americans’ freedom to vote through legislation that deletes people from voter rolls and cuts access to vote-by-mail ballots, early voting and drop boxes. By limiting how people can receive and submit ballots, state lawmakers could facilitate bad actors’ efforts to try to undermine the voting methods that remain. As a FiveThirtyEight piece published on April 20 explained, "If the majority of voters are forced to vote in one way, at one location and during a very limited window, then a malicious actor need only target that location to disrupt thousands of ballots." Thus, many election security experts believe that if implemented, these changes will make our election system easier to hack.

This is just one example showing how when we divert our attention toward fake problems, we often ignore and even exacerbate the already-existing vulnerabilities in our democracy. Unless we come together to address the challenges we actually face, our country is more likely to see issues with fraud or election security going forward—the exact opposite of what any of us wants to have happen.