Trump's batting a perfect zero on his claims of election fraud

Trump's batting a perfect zero on his claims of election fraud
(Official Whte House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

Three or four apocalypses back, otherwise known as last Thursday-ish if the calendars are right, Donald Trump was still making claims about mail-in ballot fraud, claiming to co-conspirator and Fox News gaping maw Sean Hannity that military ballots were "thrown into a garbage can, and they all had the Trump name on it" and that other ballots were "thrown into a creek, or river." The Washington Post's Phillip Bump revisits those claims, just in case you were still wondering.

Short version: Yup. Still debunked. Super, super debunked.

While Trump has used both the "military ballots in garbage can" and "votes down by the river" stories incessantly, or at least did before he was hospitalized for the completely imaginary, no-big-deal plague he's been spreading all over Washington, D.C., both stories were quickly revealed to have far less conspiratorial explanations.

As far as the "river" story, it didn't happen. While three trays of mail were found in a ditch in Greenville, Wisconsin, in late September, none of that mail included absentee ballots. The incident is most likely to be determined to be one of mail theft—an uncommon and harshly prosecuted crime of stealing U.S. mail in searches for money, valuables, or materials useful for identity theft.

What it wasn't: an attempt to throw an election. Or even an attempt to intercept ballots, as far as we can tell.

The military ballots in "a garbage can" similarly turned out to be bunk. This one is particularly eyebrow-raising because Attorney General William Barr, no longer even bothering to pretend at being anything but Trump's personal propaganda-crafter, brought the story of nine discarded ballots to Trump personally as apparent fodder for Trump's frothing "election fraud" claims. Barr and his subordinates, however, may have committed a light case of fraud in bringing it up. The ballots in question were indeed discarded—due to confusion about procedures by a temporary worker hired on at the Elections Bureau two days beforehand. Trump's claim that "all" of the nine ballots recovered were votes for himself were similarly retracted, by everyone who was Not Him.

Bump's third example of Trump l-y-i-n-g about election fraud didn't make the rounds or stir up as much attention—or maybe we've blocked it out of our collective memories because of [gestures broadly]. Trump claimed that the New York primary race between Rep. Carolyn Maloney and challenger Suraj Patel had been sabotaged, and that they "have no idea where the votes are, where the ballots are."

Because Trump was a thickheaded lout even before they pumped him full of steroids, his imagined conspiracy bears no relationship to anything that actually happened in New York. The Maloney-Patel race featured slow counting and increased numbers of rejected ballots, caused both by larger numbers of absentee ballots in general and perhaps by America's ever-increasing number of hoops voters have to jump through in order to "properly" cast absentee ballots, hoops erected in nearly all cases by Donald's own party to force more ballots to be rejected. Not voter fraud; disenfranchisement, if anything.

Trump's fevered imagination when it comes to finding instances of actual election fraud continues to bat a perfect zero. He's been frantically attempting to discredit the nation's democratic processes, as his poll numbers continue to slide downward, as justification for challenging the results if he loses. Barr, in particular, seems keen on that path as well.

But there's still no evidence of coordinated fraud anywhere. Oh—except on behalf of Republican candidates, by Republican operatives.

That's not to say there isn't rampant cheating in our national elections, of course. Donald Trump, in particular, has brazenly ignored campaign finance rules to, for example, provide hush money to adult film stars. That particular fraud landed his own lawyer, Michael Cohen, in prison.

Crimes by candidates? Crimes by Trump-appointed attorney generals? Oh, for sure—we need to be investigating and prosecuting those more rigorously, to be sure. But fraud by voters or by election officials, in the United States, remains roughly as common as death by shark attack.

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