Debunking Trump's Claims of Voter Fraud is Stunningly Easy
The judicial system is laying siege to Trump's claims.
I think it was about November 4thish when I was doomscrolling through Twitter and I saw a video of a conservative making a pretty bewildering claim: Biden may have cheated, but the Republicans hold the courts, so ultimately the total number of votes didn’t matter; the Supreme Court was inevitably going to declare President Donald Trump as the winner of the 2020 Election.
The narrative began to pop up over and over again on the nutty Right: Trump got Amy Coney Barrett in before the election, so SCOTUS would eventually hand him a victory in return. It is, to put it lightly, a fundamental misunderstanding of how the American legal system works. A lot of people dislike lawyers, but I personally love them (and not just because I work for them): In the legal system, there are plenty of disagreements about the correct interpretation of the law; that is kind of why the entire concept of judicial review exists in the first place. However, whenever you are in a courtroom, the foundation for any legal argument is a joint agreement on the actual facts. To use an example from the O.J. Simpson trial: While it is true that maybe/sorta/kinda the glove did not fit (so you must acquit), there was no debate about whether or not the glove actually existed. And widespread voter fraud does not exist.
There was a big story recently that started on the nutty opinion shows but then made its way to Fox News’ homepage: A new video in Georgia showed election workers pulling “suitcases” of secret ballots out from underneath a table after Republican and Democratic observers had left the room, and those suitcases of ballots were of course added to Joe Biden’s total, giving him an “illegal” win in Georgia. There are obvious logical problems with this assertion: Why would ballot counters commit their election fraud scheme in a room that they knew was being video taped? Why would they do it in the presence of an actual election official from the State of Georgia? Leave logic at the doorstep and toss all that aside, because that makes this less fun. The video itself seems damning if you (like most other Americans!) do not now how the ballot-counting process works. But when you look at it closely and understand the background, it plainly does not show anything close to voter fraud.
I want to pull back a little bit for a second and cite to one of the Exhibits in a recent Georgia court case that examines allegations of voter fraud. Money quote, which addresses a bunch of claims that were filed by a few conservative Twitter personalities:
Unfortunately, these reports do not meet basic standards for scientific inquiry. For the most part, they are not based on discernable logical arguments. Without any citations to relevant scientific literature about statistics or elections, the authors identify common and easily explained patterns in the 2020 election results, and without explanation, assert that they are somehow “anomalous.” Each of these reports lacks even a basic level of clarity or transparency about research methods that would be expected in a scientific communication. As detailed below, each of these reports is based on puzzling but serious mistakes and misunderstandings about how to analyze election data.
That paragraph, in all its condescension, is generally how to interpret the Trump Campaign’s allegations of voter fraud: Just because you are observing an unfamiliar process does not immediately mean that process is voter fraud. The Georgia case that the Exhibit is a part of also debunks an entire host of the Trump Campaign’s conspiracy theories, and it’s also a great resource to send over to your relatives who insist that we must #stopthesteal.
But my absolute favorite is the Eleventh Circuit decision, which was written by none other than William Pryor, who was on Trump’s SCOTUS shortlist. It addresses the allegations by L. Lin Wood, Jr., a Georgia attorney working with Sidney Powell Movement to overturn the election results in Georgia:
Wood asked for several kinds of relief in his emergency motion, but most of his requests pertained to the 2020 election results. He moved the district court to prohibit either the certification of the election results or certification that included the disputed absentee ballots. He also asked the district court to order a new hand recount and to grant Republican election monitors greater access during both the recount and the January runoff election. But after the district court denied Wood’s motion, Secretary Raffensperger certified the election results on November 20. And Governor Kemp certified the slate of presidential electors later that day. […] Wood’s arguments reflect a basic misunderstanding of what mootness is. He argues that the certification does not moot anything “because this litigation is ongoing” and he remains injured. But mootness concerns the availability of relief, not the existence of a lawsuit or an injury (my emphasis).
This case is more technical, but it thoroughly highlights the hilarious incompetence of the attorneys who are working for Trump in court (I guess I do not like all attorneys, but more on that later). If a is judge telling you that you - an attorney of the Bar - have a “basic misunderstanding” of a somewhat “basic” concept, it’s a pretty damning testament to your bad lawyering.
This brings me back to the original video of the Georgia election officials. Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager of Georgia, said in no uncertain terms: “[T]he work you see is the work you would expect, which is you take the sealed suitcase looking things in, you place the ballots on the scanner in manageable batches and you scan them.”
The evil “suitcases” of ballots? Those were actually Georgia’s “regular ballot containers,” which are filled with absentee ballots that were already removed and sorted from their envelopes. How do we know that? Because it was done while observers from the Republican, Democratic, Biden Campaign, and Trump Campaign were all present. That’s why the non-partisan observers were allowed to go home: The sorting work had already completed in their presence (and in the presence of the media). To put it simply: Not even close to being voter fraud.
Lots of other claims of fraud are similarly easy to debunk:
Some of this is baked into the soup of the Internet. When you have millions of people who are media-illiterate and do not understand how to process information, you are bound to see huge chunks of them be deceived by news stories that they read quickly or, worse, stories that are designed to be read quickly but are also designed to deceive. And, obviously, it’s only made worse by a president who indulges the conspiracy theories every chance he gets.
Media-literacy is a much bigger issue that we will have to talk about later, but if you want to read a great summary about how Georgia has dealt with the voter fraud conspiracy theories, read this piece by Edward-Isaac Dovere.
There was an incredible piece in the New York Times about Carl Lentz, the former pastor of Hillsong Church in Manhattan. David French has a reaction to the Times’s report that almost matches the quality of the original piece itself.
I now want to bring everything back together to address my “more on that later” promise from above. Lin Wood is an attorney in Georgia who is not only alleging that massive voter fraud happened in Georgia, but that the only recourse at this point is for Georgia’s State Legislature to appoint a new slate of electors who will give the State back to Trump. In other words, Wood is an enemy of democracy. However, some people have pointed out Wood’s donation history (which leans heavily towards Democrats) and his current argument for Republicans to boycott the January 5, 2021, runoff for both of the State’s senate seats, because neither of the GOP candidates have sufficiently backed Trump’s claims of election fraud.
So, is Wood a secret Democrat operative trying to undermine the Republicans in Georgia by filing silly lawsuits and telling people not to vote for Republicans? French has an important quote from Jeremiah in his piece: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?”
Have a great week my habibis.