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Trump ignores facts with claim of improper 'vote dumps'

In lawsuits, tweets and a 46-minute taped diatribe, the president has promoted a false narrative about vote counting in several states.
Image: U.S. President Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Lou Holtz at the White House in Washington
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the Oval Office on Dec. 3, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

WASHINGTON — At 3:42 on the morning after Election Day, President Donald Trump's lead in Wisconsin was suddenly eroded by a spike in the number of votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

The president cited the Biden jump during a taped White House speech distributed Wednesday as evidence of fraud. "And to this day, everyone's trying to figure out, where did it come from?"

In fact, the change has long since been explained. The votes came from mail ballots cast in Milwaukee and 38 other municipalities that were counted in a central location and reported all at once. State officials fully expected to see the sudden change.

Jim Steineke, the Republican leader in the state assembly, said it was no surprise. "We knew exactly how many were out there the entire day. Them being reported late is NOT an indication of fraud," he wrote on Facebook when claims first surfaced that something had gone wrong.

Something similar happened in Michigan, Trump said during his speech Wednesday, complaining that nearly 150,000 votes came in during a "morning vote dump" at 6:31. "All of a sudden I go from winning a lot to losing a tight race. It's corrupt," he said.

But that, too, has been explained, despite the president's claim that "nobody knows anything about it."

An election official in Shiawassee County wrongly added an extra zero to a Biden tally, entering it as 153,710 instead of 15,371. A state official caught the mistake, and it was corrected within half an hour of the erroneous entry. Even if it had been missed then, the error would have been detected during the vote canvass, election officials said.

Biden won Michigan by more than 150,000 votes, according to NBC News tallies, a significantly larger margin than Trump's own 10,704 vote advantage over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

In Arizona, the president said Wednesday, "in-person voters whose ballots produced error messages from tabulation machines were told to press a button that resulted in the votes not being counted." That's a reference to a claim that the use of Sharpie pens in Maricopa county caused the ink to bleed and invalidate ballots. Voters said they were told to use an override button to force the counting machine to accept the ballot anyway.

A lawsuit making that claim was dismissed, and state officials said using the pens did not cause ballots to be rejected.

President Trump also said thousands of uncounted ballots were discovered in three Georgia counties after the election, "and these ballots were mostly from Trump voters."

That much is true, but it is not evidence of fraud or corruption, officials said. And it was actually four counties, not three.

In each case, state election officials said, county election workers failed to upload tallies from memory cards used to store the totals from vote counting machines. The discrepancies were discovered during an audit ordered by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, who has been repeatedly criticized by Trump.

Raffensperger was acting under a Georgia law passed last year that requires an audit of one race after a general election, and he chose the presidential contest for the review. The memory cards were found to hold a total of 3,601 votes for Trump and 2,170 for Biden, giving Trump a net gain of 1,431 in a state he lost by 12,670 votes.

While at least one opinion poll found that many Republicans believe President Trump actually won the election, his claims of fraud have failed to affect more than a small number of votes through challenges in court.

Among the strongest critics of the Trump campaign's claims were two federal judges, both appointed to the bench by President Trump.