Former President Donald Trump posted on social media on Tuesday to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the midterm election in the critical state of Pennsylvania. “Here we go again!” he wrote. “Rigged election!”
Trump’s so-called proof? An article on a right-wing news site that showed no rigging. On the contrary, the article raised baseless suspicions about mail-in voting data that the article did not clearly explain.
In 2020, Trump and his allies made a protracted effort to discredit presidential election results in advance, spending months laying the groundwork for their false post-election claims that the election was stolen. Now, in the weeks leading up to Election Day in 2022, some Republicans have deployed similar — and equally dishonest — rhetoric.
Trump is not the only Republican trying to baselessly promote suspicion over the midterm elections in Pennsylvania, a state that could determine which party controls the US Senate.
After Pennsylvania’s interim election chief Leigh Chapman told NBC News last week that the vote count could take “days” to complete, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who has repeatedly promoted false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, said on a right-wing show monitored by the liberal organization Media Matters for America: “It’s an attempt to get the fix.”
This is not the case. It just takes time to count the votes — particularly, as Chapman noted, because the Republican-controlled state legislature refused to pass an unconditional bill to allow counties to begin voting. process mail-in ballots earlier than the morning of Election Day.
But other prominent Republicans piled in. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted a link to an article about Chapman’s comments and added“Why is it only Democratic blue towns taking ‘days’ to count their votes? The rest of the country manages to do it on election night.
Even aside from the fact that large cities that tend to lean Democrat have far more votes to count than smaller rural counties that tend to lean Republican, Cruz’s claim is simply wrong.
Counties of all kinds across the country — including, as PolitiFact noted, some Republican counties in the Texas state of Cruz — do not complete their vote counts on election night. In fact, it is impossible for many counties to have a final tally on election night.
Even some of the most Republican states in the country are counting mail-in ballots (or, in some cases, specifically mail-in ballots from overseas military and citizens) that arrive a few days after Election Day, provided they are postmarked before Election Day. And some states, including some led by Republicans, are giving voters days after Election Day to resolve issues with their signatures or to provide proof of identity they didn’t have on Election Day.
US election officials do not declare winners or official vote totals on election night. On the contrary, the media make unofficial projections based on incomplete data.
The health issues of Democratic candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate race, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, have also been used to cast preemptive doubt on the possible outcome.
After Trump was defeated by Joe Biden in 2020, some right-wing figures insisted the election must have been stolen because Biden was such a bad candidate. On Fox last week, as noted by Media Matters, primetime host Tucker Carlson made a similar point about the Pennsylvania Senate race – suggesting people shouldn’t accept a victory by Fetterman because it would be “transparently absurd” for a candidate who has struggled with public speech and hearing processing since a stroke in May to legitimately win.
But there would be nothing suspicious about Fetterman winning in a state Biden won by more than 80,000 votes in 2020. Fetterman has led many (but not all) opinion polls — and the polls have revealed more times than Pennsylvania voters continue to view him much more favorably that they see his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz.
The city of Detroit, like other Democratic-dominated cities with large black populations, has been the target of false 2020 conspiracy theories from Trump and others. And now the Republican candidate to lead the Michigan election is already challenging the validity of tens of thousands of votes in Detroit in 2022.
Less than two weeks before Election Day, Kristina Karamo, a 2020 election denier and Republican candidate for Michigan secretary of state, filed a lawsuit asking a court to “stop” the use absentee ballots in Detroit if not obtained in person at the clerk’s office and declare that only ballots obtained through in-person applications can be “validly voted” in this election. This request would potentially mean the rejection of thousands of votes already legally cast by residents of Detroit – in a state whose constitution gives residents the right to request mail-in ballots.
Karamo’s attorney vaguely softened the request during closing arguments on Friday, The Detroit News reported. And other prominent Republicans have so far kept their distance of the trial.
Nonetheless, the suit sets the stage for Karamo, who is trailing in the opinion polls, to groundlessly dismiss the legitimacy of a defeat.
Other Republican candidates have vaguely hinted at the possibility that Democrats could somehow cheat on Election Day or during the vote count.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told reporters this week that “we’ll see what happens” when it comes to accepting the results of his re-election race, the Washington Post reported, adding: “I mean, is anything going to happen on Election Day? Do the Democrats have something up their sleeves?
The Daily Beast reported that Blake Masters, the Republican Senate candidate in a tight Arizona race, told a story at an October event about how he can’t prove it’s not true that , if he beats Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Kelly by 30,000 votes, Anonymous people won’t just “find 40,000” for Kelly. He told a similar story at an event in June.
There is no basis for the suggestion that there could be tens of thousands of fraudulent votes added to any state’s tally. But Masters’ comment, like Karamo’s lawsuit, has the effect of many Trump 2020 pre-election stories: Core Republican voters are wary of any outcome that doesn’t go their way.
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