Debunking President Trump’s 2020 Election Myths

Living under Donald Trump’s presidency for the last four years means we’ve gotten used to the nation’s leader making false or misleading statements. And in the run-up to November, Trump has stayed true to himself, spouting several deceptive—and concerning—comments about the 2020 election. Here, we’ll be keeping track of (and helping to debunk) Trump’s election myths.

Myth: Trump can delay the election.

    On July 30th, Trump claimed that due to mail-in voting, the 2020 presidential election would be “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.” He then suggested delaying the election until “people can properly, securely and safely vote.”

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    According to CNN, Trump has “no authority” to delay the presidential election. In fact, the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the voting date, and as CNN reports, “Lawmakers from both parties said almost immediately there was no likelihood the election would be delayed and even some of Trump’s allies said his message reflected the desperate flailing of a badly losing candidate.”

    NPR also reported that Trump later said that he did not actually want a “date change” but warned the procedures for the 2020 election would be “fraudulent,” “fixed,” and “rigged.”

    Prompted by Trump’s tweet, the New York Times answered some questions relating to Trump’s power over the election, including whether Trump can cancel or postpone the election with an executive order (no) and the likelihood of the election being postponed (highly unlikely).

    Myth: Mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud.

    Referring to that same tweet from Trump, CNN reported there’s “no evidence” that mail-in voting leads to fraudulent voting, though Trump has claimed as such several times. (Some Democrats have also raised concerns.) The Times also reported in its Q&A that mail-in voting does not lead to voter fraud and that studies have shown voter fraud is “very rare” in the U.S. Also, fun fact, Trump voted by mail in the 2016 election.

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    The Times also reports that in five states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington), “most or all votes are cast by mail” while in three other states, more than half are cast by mail. “And states that use vote-by-mail have encountered essentially zero fraud,” the paper reports.

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    Trump has also made claims that mail-in voting is particularly detrimental to Republican candidates, though Vox clarifies, “There’s little evidence that mail-in voting disproportionately helps Democrats, but that hasn’t stopped Trump and other Republicans from opposing it on a partisan basis.”

    He’s also, falsely, said that there’s a difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting. CNN reports there isn’t really one and many states “make no distinction at all.”

    However, it is true that some experts have concerns going into this election. Politico reports: “It’s unknown whether the United States Postal Service can handle a surge of mail-in ballots in a timely fashion, and other officials have cautioned about long lines and a shortage of workers at in-person polling stations, which have been limited during the coronavirus outbreak. Some have predicted the crush of remote voting could mean a final winner in the presidential race between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden won’t be known for days or even weeks. “

    Myth: Trump can successfully reject the election results.

    During a Fox News interview in late July, Trump would not say whether he would accept the results of the 2020 presidential election. When asked to give a “direct answer” about whether he would accept the election, Trump said: “I have to see. I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.” (Forbes pointed out that during the 2016 election Trump said, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election if I win.”)

    Then when asked, during an interview with Axios’s Jonathan Swan, what not accepting the results would look like, he said, “Hillary Clinton never accepted them. She still doesn’t accept them.”

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    In response to Trump’s statements, GEN explored the question of what exactly happens if Trump refuses to accept the results of the presidential election. One potential scenario the site describes is a situation where Trump is ahead on election night but Biden wins days or weeks later, once every vote is counted.

    GEN reports: “It’s conceivable in a close race that the Democratic governor certifies one result and one set of electors, but the Republican legislature certifies an entirely different result and set of electors. That’s where all these scenarios can start to go haywire.”

    However, the site confirms that it’s unlikely the fallout from such a scenario would happen: “It requires a very specific set of circumstances where Trump loses, challenges the validity of the election, and then still has enough allies in state legislatures and Washington, D.C., to be able to formally overturn the Electoral College results—to say nothing of the popular vote—under color of law.”

    This post will, inevitably, continue to be updated.

    Madison is a staff writer at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture.

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