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US Elections 2020: Fact-check on Donald Trump’s speech

by OtownGist

President Trump spoke early on Friday about the US election count, making a number of accusations of fraud for which he did not provide evidence.

We’ve fact-checked some of his claims.

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Trump: “I’ve been talking about mail-in voting for a long time. It’s really destroyed our system. It’s a corrupt system and it makes people corrupt.”

Mr Trump has posted more than 70 tweets casting doubt on mail-in voting, referencing voter fraud or “rigged” elections since April.

But there is no evidence the system is corrupt.

Electoral fraud is very rare in the United States – the rate is less than 0.0009%, according to a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice. There’s no evidence to suggest it’s been a major issue at this election either.

The president himself has voted by post in the past. He lived outside the state he was registered in, Florida, and requested a postal vote.

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This is known as an absentee ballot, which Mr Trump has said he is in favour of because he believes it has better safeguards.

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But he has made a distinction with other forms of mail-in voting, such as when states automatically send out ballots to all registered voters.

Oregon and Utah have done so successfully in previous elections.

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Trump: “They mailed out tens of millions of unsolicited ballots without any verification measures.”

Registered voters in nine states (plus Washington DC) were automatically sent mail-in ballots without having to ask for them. Five of these states introduced this measure because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But eight of the nine states – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, Washington, California, New Jersey, and Vermont – are not currently in contention.

All forms of postal voting have safeguards – such as authorities checking that ballots have come from a voter’s registered address and requiring signatures on envelopes.

Voting by mail is not new – it has been used for many elections.

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Trump: “It’s amazing how those mail-in ballots are so one-sided too.”

President Trump has repeatedly criticised plans to expand postal voting, saying – without real evidence – it was open to “tremendous fraud.”

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He urged Republican voters to turn up on the day, rather than using mail-in ballots.

There’s evidence from the vote count that this is what has happened – Democratic voters favoured voting by post and Republicans voted on the day in person.

The count is not finished but in Pennsylvania, one estimate is that of more than 2.5 million postal votes received, nearly three times as many came from registered Democrats than from Republicans.

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Trump: “In Georgia, a pipe burst in a far away location, totally unrelated to the location of what was happening and they stopped counting for four hours.”

That’s not true.

The pipe burst at State Farm Arena and affected a room where absentee ballots were being tabulated.

Here is the press release put out by the staff at the arena.

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Trump: “There are now only a few states yet to be decided in the presidential race. The voting apparatus of those states are run in all cases by Democrats.”

That’s not true “in all cases”.

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In Georgia, which is yet to be decided, the governor and both houses of the legislature are Republican-controlled.

The secretary of state, who is in charge of the administration of the election, is Brad Raffensperger who is a Republican.

Here is a tweet from 2018 where Donald Trump endorses him.

To take another example, Nevada has a Republican secretary of state overseeing its election.

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Trump: “They wouldn’t allow legally permissible observers.”

President Trump is talking about poll watchers. These are people inside polling stations who observe the counting of votes, with the aim of ensuring transparency.

These are allowed in most states, but they have to be registered before election day, usually affiliated with a party or a candidate, although rules vary from state to state.

President Trump has taken issue with a perceived lack of access for Republican observers in certain Democrat-run cities, such as Philadelphia and Detroit.

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But poll watchers were allowed to observe the count in both cities.

Philadelphia Convention Center poll observer
image captionA poll watcher in Philadelphia observing the counting

The number of poll watchers allowed at a counting facility varies depending on its size. These limits are set out before election day.

In some areas numbers were restricted, in part to limit capacity due to coronavirus. There are also limits set to avoid intimidation.

In Detroit, more than 130 observers representing both the Democrats and Republicans were allowed inside the convention site.

The City Clerk Janice Winfrey said she wasn’t aware of Republican observers being removed.

In Philadelphia, there was a viral video showing a certified poll watcher being turned away from a polling station, but as we reported, this was due to confusion over the rules and he was later allowed in.

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has said: “Every candidate and every political party is allowed to have an authorised representative in the room observing the process. Some jurisdictions including Philly are also livestreaming, so you can literally watch their counting process.”

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Trump: “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us. If you count the votes that came in late, we’re looking to them very strongly, but a lot of votes came in late.”

President Trump is suggesting counting postal votes which arrive after election day is “illegal”.

But late postal ballots can be counted in around half of US states – as long as they are postmarked by 3 November.

This includes the key states of Pennsylvania, Nevada and North Carolina where a winner is yet to be projected. The deadlines for how late a postal ballot can arrive varies from state to state.

Other states, such as Georgia and Arizona, don’t count postal votes which arrive after election day.

In his speech, President Trump said in Pennsylvania late postal ballots were being counted “without even postmarks or any identification whatsoever”.

The state’s Supreme Court ruled late ballots with missing or illegible postmarks would be counted unless sufficient evidence “demonstrates that it was mailed after election day”.

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Every postal ballot goes through several steps to be verified, such as a signature and address check.

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Trump: “One major hub for counting ballots in Detroit covered up the windows again with large pieces of cardboard, and so they wanted to protect and block the counting area.”

Mr Trump is referring to the TFC Center in Detroit, Michigan – a battleground state.

On Wednesday, there were chaotic scenes when poll watchers claimed they were being blocked from the counting hall as windows were covered.

The City of Detroit’s principal attorney, Lawrence Garcia, said in a statement: “Some – but not all – windows were covered, because poll workers seated just inside those windows expressed concerns about people outside the center photographing and filming them and their work.”

Windows at the TFC Center being boarded up
Windows at the TFC Center being boarded up

There were in fact hundreds of poll watchers – from both parties – inside the count. Officials prevented more poll watchers coming in because it was already over-capacity.

BBC

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