Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

How Republicans around the country used right-wing media myths to justify suppressing votes

Republicans across the country engaged in an aggressive campaign to undermine the 2020 elections through voter suppression, an effort that has continued in the wake of Donald Trump’s loss. As in past election cycles, this voter suppression was bolstered by a longstanding right-wing media campaign to delegitimize election results by constantly hyping flimsy accusations of “voter fraud,” an anti-democratic tactic which Trump aggressively embraced in his first presidential campaign and one he shows no indication of abandoning now that his reelection bid has been defeated. 

Some of these right-wing media myths about voter fraud are well-worn and have been recycled (and debunked) repeatedly. Others are new, created to justify an ever-increasing effort to make it harder for Americans to vote against a conservative movement that just lost both the popular and Electoral College vote. And the outlets spreading all of these election lies are not slowing down. With the rise of social media and a conservative media ecosystem that rewards the most extreme demonization of political opponents, faith in our democracy is corroding at an alarming pace.

During a once-in-a-century pandemic that is spiraling further out of control, Republicans -- with the aid of their right-wing media enablers -- behaved in an anti-democratic fashion not seen since the Jim Crow era. In Michigan, they insisted that voters who need assistance in the delivery of their ballots must go without and pushed in court for absentee ballots that arrive late to be tossed (despite state efforts to the contrary). Their conservative colleagues in multiple other battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Minnesota, also tried to overturn similar election rules with the same anti-majoritarian strategy, leading to a flurry of last-minute Supreme Court orders over which attempts to restrict the franchise are permitted and which are too lawless for even a majority-Republican high court. But the list of such attempts is much longer than just these high-profile examples.

Republicans in South Carolina dredged up the witness requirement for voting. In Nevada, they tried to weaponize voter signature verification. In Alabama, curbside voting was apparently too accommodating even in a pandemic, and in Texas they one-upped that lack of basic decency by limiting ballot drop-off boxes to one per county, despite the now well-known fact that Houston’s Harris County has almost 5 million people. The list goes on and on, with one election law scholar who had been tabulating all the litigation arising around efforts by states to facilitate voting in a national emergency putting the current count at over 328 cases as of November 7.

And this doesn’t take into account the whirlwind of litigation that followed Trump’s clear presidential loss. Claiming massive voter fraud despite evidence to the contrary (just like he did in 2016), Trump and his Republican allies are currently challenging election procedures, ballots, and even vote certification in those battleground states and communities of color that voted for President-elect Joe Biden. Although these lawsuits are floundering in court due to the inability of Trump's legal team to substantiate their baseless claims of fraudulent election results, their dangerous effect is already apparent as poll after poll shows they are contributing to the delegitimization of our democratic process in the minds of Trump’s supporters. With the help of right-wing media, these constituents will be primed to support a new wave of laws designed to suppress the vote -- especially a Democratic-leaning vote -- when state legislatures reopen in January 2021.

This round of litigation will eventually end. Messily most likely, but the legality of all these attempts to restrict the franchise will be settled by the courts, for good or for bad. However, despite numerous attempts to fact-check, debunk, and demonstrably disprove them, the right-wing media myths that gave rise to so much of this voter suppression will unfortunately return for the next round of elections. Below is a selection of these right-wing media arguments sure to present themselves in a similar fashion in the future:

  • Myth: Mail-in and absentee ballots are rife with fraud

  • Right-wing media have frequently argued that mail-in and absentee voting is rife with fraud, and have continued to do so during the pandemic. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that widespread mail-in voting for the 2020 election would allow Democrats to “flood the system with fake ballots, fake votes.” Fox’s Sean Hannity claimed that a caller reported receiving two ballots in the mail for a dead family member. Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich accused Democrats of ignoring “multiple cases of voter fraud” by encouraging universal mail-in voting. But mail-in and absentee ballot fraud is uncommon. For example, when nine voters in Madison County, Florida, were tried for absentee ballot fraud in 2011, the state found that “no fraud occurred.” In fact, the most recent notable example of substantiated absentee voter fraud was committed by North Carolina Republicans in 2018, a crime that many of the same Republicans currently fabricating claims of voter fraud conspicuously ignored. And the Brennan Center has found no evidence that mail-in balloting increases electoral fraud.

  • Illinois

    What happened: The Cook County Republican Party sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker over a law that he signed in June aimed at expanding voting by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that he was trying to “harvest Democratic ballots, dilute Republican ballots, and … generate enough Democratic ballots after election day to sway the result.”

  • What experts say: “This lawsuit is a desperate political attempt to suppress the vote,” Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Pritzker, said in a statement. According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois state Sen. Julie Morrison, the sponsor of the law, “said the legislation was ‘a direct response to COVID-19’” and was intended “to make voting safe and available for every voter across the state of Illinois.”

  • Montana

    What happened: Republican operatives in Montana tried to block efforts to allow county election officials to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters at their discretion. The suit was brought forth by Republican state House candidate Joe Lamm, the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, and four Montana Republican voters. They took the request to the Supreme Court after it was rejected by both a federal district court in the state and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court, led by Justice Elena Kagan, denied the request as well.

  • What experts say: Montana federal District Court Judge Dana Christensen said that Republicans’ claims that mail-in ballots would lead to voter fraud “is a fiction,” both nationwide and in Montana specifically. Christensen explained that mail-in balloting results in “no significant risk of fraud.”

  • New Jersey

    What happened: The Trump campaign attempted to stop the state from processing ballots received by mail 10 days before Election Day and two days afterward, “even if those ballots don't have a postmark.” U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp blocked the attempt on the basis that the provisions of New Jersey’s election plan were both legal, sound, and needed to accommodate the timely processing of increased mail ballots during the pandemic.

  • What experts say: “While there was a case of alleged voter fraud in [the city of] Paterson’s May municipal election, there is little evidence it is a widespread problem,” Politico New Jersey reporter Matt Friedman explained.

  • Nevada

    What happened: The Trump campaign attempted to block Assembly Bill 4, which revised election procedures for mail-in ballots and ensured a minimum number of in-person polling places during early voting and on Election Day. U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that Republicans failed to establish standing for their suit.

  • What experts say: “Clark County is a blue county, and this is a numbers game,” Nevada Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Zunino said during his opening statement. “And quite frankly they would like to exclude as many ballots in Clark County as they can. They want a high rejection rate. They are not challenging the process in Elko County or Humboldt County or Carson City because those are red counties.”

  • South Carolina

    What happened: A handful of county election boards were conducting signature matching on ballots even though the state has no requirements for the practice. A federal judge ruled that election boards can’t reject ballots based on mismatched signatures and were required to review and reprocess previously rejected ballots for the general election. Counties that wanted to continue signature matching were required to seek approval from the court.

  • What experts say: “This ruling erases the uncertainty voters might feel about whether their absentee ballot signature may not exactly match a previous one on record,” Christe McCoy-Lawrence, co-president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, told The Associated Press.

  • Oklahoma

    What happened: Oklahoma required mail-in ballots to be notarized and arrive at county election boards by Election Day. The Oklahoma Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a lawsuit in May against the requirement, arguing that it would disenfranchise voters due to the coronavirus pandemic. The suit succeeded, so the state’s Republican lawmakers revised the requirement to allow voters to submit a copy of their ID along with their ballot instead.

  • What experts say: Marc Meredith, a political professor at the University of Pennsylvania, testified that more than 2,300 mailed ballots would be rejected by county election boards because they arrived after the polls closed on Election Day.

  • Mississippi

    What happened: Mississippi implemented absentee voting regulations that allow only certain individuals (like those who are over 65 or out of the country) to vote by mail. The state also requires absentee ballots to be notarized, and the ballots must be verified by comparing voters’ signatures to those on their absentee applications. In response to a legal challenge by civil rights groups, Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson changed the process, allowing voters to fix their ballots before Election Day.

  • What experts say: Jennifer Nwachukwu, an attorney in the federal lawsuit challenging this requirement, said the state’s restrictions particularly “affect communities of color, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and therefore need an effective and fair way to vote by absentee ballot.” 

    “Mississippi is making it harder for people to exercise their constitutional right to vote when they should be making it easier and safer,” Attorney General William Tong of Connecticut, who joined a group of 17 attorneys general in supporting a legal challenge to these requirements, said in a press release.

  • Myth: Only state legislatures can set and modify election rules

  • Right-wing media and the Trump campaign have advanced an inaccurate legal theory about which entities are responsible for setting election rules. The myth rests on an idea called the “independent state legislature doctrine” discussed by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist in the 2000 Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore. According to ProPublica’s Ian MacDougall, Rehnquist narrowly read the Constitution as giving state legislatures, rather than courts or election boards, “exclusive authority to run presidential elections.” As NBC News election law analyst Michael S. Kang wrote, the doctrine “is neither established nor persuasive legal theory,” and it clings to “a one-off reference to a concurrence in Bush v. Gore itself — joined by only three justices.” In fact, the Supreme Court disposed of this argument in the 2015 case Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, though Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas have signaled that they agree with the doctrine. This issue has come up in this election in particular because of modifications enacted by state courts and election boards to allow safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Pennsylvania

    What happened: The Trump campaign sued Pennsylvania, alleging that its secretary of state and elections boards had “violated the Elections Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, claiming that only the state legislature could set election rules. The campaign argued that the state had violated the Constitution by not allowing “the ability to be ‘present’ and have meaningful access to observe and monitor the electoral process” and for allowing voters to “cure” ballots that had minor discrepancies. An additional lawsuit from the Trump campaign and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania claimed a violation of the Elections Clause when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court “issued a ruling requiring the state to count absentee ballots that arrive up to three days after Election Day as long as they are not clearly postmarked after Election Day.”

  • What experts say: Several legal experts claimed that the Trump campaign lawsuits were without merit, including that the ballots at issue would likely not change the outcome of the race if found invalid.

  • Georgia

    What happened: In November, a Republican attorney in Georgia filed a lawsuit alleging that the state “unilaterally, and without the approval or direction of the Georgia General Assembly, changed the process for handling absentee ballots in Georgia, including those cast in the general election.” The pro-Trump lawyer who filed the claim asked the court to accordingly invalidate all absentee ballots cast during the 2020 election.

  • What experts say: The office of the Georgia Secretary of State said the lawsuit was a “silly baseless claim” given that “signature match is intact and the General Assembly passed legislation to allow voters who failed to include a signature time to add one” for absentee ballots.

  • Minnesota

    What happened: The Trump campaign sued Minnesota, alleging that the state legislature was violating a law precluding the counting of votes “received by mail after 8pm on election day, or by hand after 3pm” and claiming that election officials and the state could not change the rules to “accept and count mail-in ballots that are cast and postmarked on or before Election Day but received by 8 p.m. within 7 days of Election Day.”

  • What experts say: As election law professor Rick Hasen explained, the Minnesota state legislature “did not object” to the modified election rules and had “delegated the power to the Secretary of State to take these steps.”

  • Montana

    What happened: The Trump campaign sued Montana over Gov. Steve Bullock’s “executive order granting universal vote-by-mail balloting,” saying that “only the state legislature has the authority to enact universal vote-by-mail.” The district court allowed the executive order to stand, calling claims of widespread mail-in voter fraud in Montana “a fiction.”

  • What experts say: The order by the district court in Montana pointed to the Purcell principle, which is a legal principle that finds “courts should not change election rules during the period of time just prior to an election because doing so could confuse voters and create problems for officials administering the election.”

  • New Jersey

    What happened: Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order “mandating that November 3 elections will be all-mail, that all active voters will automatically receive mail-in ballots, that ballots postmarked on or before elections day will be counted even if received after election day, and that all in-person ballots will be cast as provisional ballots.” The Trump campaign sued, alleging “the Governor lacks authority to order these changes,” but the case has since been thrown out.

  • What experts say: As Lawfare wrote, “Litigation in the past few months has broadly favored state officials who have expanded vote-by-mail to meet the surge in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Challenges to state expansions of vote-by-mail have generally failed on the merits, with judges ruling that states acted within their authority and that claims of potential voter fraud were too speculative to warrant relief.”

  • North Carolina

    What happened: The Trump campaign sued the North Carolina State Board of Elections saying a consent judgement allowing changes in voting rules was invalid because it violated the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The changes “extend[ed] the absentee ballot receipt deadline, provide[d] voters with notice and an opportunity to cure ballot defects after election day, allow[ed] voted absentee ballots to be dropped off at one-stop early voting locations and county board offices, and d[id] not reject ballots that are dropped off by third parties.” The Supreme Court denied injunctive relief for the plaintiffs in October after it was merged with a similar case from North Carolina Republicans.

  • What experts say: The North Carolina state election board said “it had the statutory authority to act” and “in the past three years alone, the board has twice extended the absentee-ballot receipt deadline after hurricanes hit the state’s coast” without any challenges. As The New York Times’ Adam Liptak wrote, this is because “a state law gave it emergency powers to be used when elections are disrupted by natural disasters.”

  • Myth: Ballot collection is an illegal form of “harvesting”

  • Right-wing media have increasingly repeated the myth that ballot collection — a practice in which designated people transport sealed absentee ballots to collection sites for voters — leads to voter fraud by conflating the practice with illegality and arguing that Democrats want to allow it so they can cheat. In 2019, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board criticized California Democrats for passing laws making it easier for Californians to cast their vote, including via ballot collection, claiming these laws purportedly cost GOP candidates in the state their elections.

  • Arizona

    What happened: In April, the Arizona GOP petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, which asks “whether an Arizona law prohibiting individuals from collecting the early ballots of others” violates the Constitution “because it disproportionately and adversely impacts minorities, unjustifiably burdens the right to vote, and interferes with freedom of association.” The Supreme Court will hear the case in 2021.

  • What experts say: As the Brennan Center for Justice has explained, the term “ballot harvesting” is used to criticize both “illegal and illegitimate absentee ballot tampering” as well as “legal and legitimate assistance to voters casting their absentee ballots,” even though “twenty-seven states have absentee ballot assistance laws that permit voters to designate someone other than a family member to return their absentee ballot.”

  • California

    What happened: California Republicans set up unofficial drop-off boxes to collect ballots and, at first, said they would not comply with the state’s cease and desist order to halt the practice, despite concerns about the ballots’ chain of custody and the boxes being inaccurately labeled as “official ballot drop off” locations. State officials pointed out the practice was misleading and potentially illegal. California Republicans eventually “agreed not to place unauthorized ballot drop boxes outdoors, leave drop boxes unattended or present them as official.”

  • What experts say: As the Los Angeles Times’ Sarah Parvini and Stephanie Lai reported, “State election officials say there is a distinction between designating a third party to deliver a ballot for a voter and placing a ballot into an unofficial box.” According to The New York Times, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla explained that the distinction was “the boxes were not covered by legal protections, because they were intended to ‘mislead voters and erode the public trust.’”

  • Myth: Strict voter ID and registration laws are necessary to maintain the integrity of an election

  • Right-wing media have repeatedly insisted on the idea that strict voter identification and registration laws are necessary to protect the integrity of elections. In 2016, David French argued in National Review that voter ID laws actually increased turnout among key demographics, an old right-wing fallacy. “Evidence shows black turnout was higher than white turnout in many states that require voter ID,” he wrote about the correlation. But as PolitiFact noted, “experts say that doesn’t necessarily mean that voter ID laws don’t suppress -- or, at the very least, attempt to suppress -- the minority vote.” And a comprehensive 2017 study from the University of California, San Diego, found that strict voter ID laws have a “differentially negative impact on the turnout of Hispanics, Blacks, and mixed-race Americans in primaries and general elections.”

  • North Dakota

    What happened: In 2018, a federal judge ruled in favor of requiring all voters to show ID with a current address at the polls. Many Native Americans have only P.O. boxes on their tribal IDs, meaning they would be barred from voting. A settlement reached in April of 2020 allowed Native American voters who do not have residential street addresses to point out where they live on a map.

  • What experts say: Nicole Donaghy, executive director of North Dakota Native Vote, told NBC that tribal members who don’t live on reservations still need help and poll workers should be made aware of changes to the rule “so that no one is mistakenly turned away.”

  • South Carolina

    What happened: South Carolina required all nine digits of voters’ Social Security number in order to register to vote. The state Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and South Carolina officials banded together to replace the requirement by only requiring the last four digits.

  • What experts say: “This provision is wrong, unconstitutional, and a large part of why nearly one million eligible people in South Carolina remain unregistered to vote,” DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos said.

  • Myth: Outdoor voting locations compromise election security

  • Right-wing media have spread the charge that curbside voting endangers election integrity. In October, for example, National File writer Patrick Howley tweeted that precinct workers were using stacks of IDs to give incorrect identities to drive-thru voters in order to help them vote illegally in Houston. The claim spread from Twitter to Facebook in groups like Texas for Donald Trump 2020.

  • Alabama

    What happened: In October, the Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling that would have allowed Alabama counties to offer curbside voting after Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill “ordered county officials not to offer it,” even though counties allowed the practice in the 2016 and 2018 elections.

  • What experts say: Writing for the liberal justices in dissent on behalf of older and disabled voters, Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out that if “those vulnerable voters wish to vote in person they must wait inside, for as long as it takes, in a crowd of fellow voters whom Alabama does not require to wear face coverings.”

  • Texas

    What happened: Harris County eliminated nine drive-thru voting options hours before polling opened. County Clerk Chris Hollins closed them due to legal challenges by four GOP operatives, three of them running for office, who argued that drive-thru venues should not be counted as buildings and state law says that “each polling place shall be located inside a building.”

  • What experts say: “Texans who lawfully voted at drive through locations should have never had to fear that their votes wouldn’t be counted and their voices wouldn’t be heard,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa told CNN. “This lawsuit was shameful and it should have never seen the light of day.”

  • Myth: One drop-box location per county prevents voter fraud

  • Right-wing media have been repeating the notion that limiting drop boxes to one per county protects election integrity, and making voting too accessible leads to fraud. On October 20, Republican talk radio host Dom Giordano hosted Elizabeth Preate Havey, head of the Montgomery County Republicans in Pennsylvania, who claimed that “over 10 videos and photos of multiple ballot drops have been turned over to the DA” showing potential ballot fraud. And in a November 4 episode of far-right conspiracy theory outlet Infowars’ The Alex Jones Show, Gateway Pundit blogger Joe Hoft claimed that he "talked to somebody in Michigan who said they know, some people who say there’s three cars pulled up to one of the ballot stations and dropped off a bunch of ballots. One of the cars was a real expensive -- I think it was a Lamborghini or something … but there was like 200,000 ballots that just all of a sudden 200,000 for Biden, none for Trump.”

  • Ohio

    What happened: Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose installed one drop box at each county board of elections before the primary election in April. He subsequently allowed some counties to install more drop boxes, but only on the properties of election boards.

  • What experts say: “Having two or more drop boxes at the same location does nothing to help voters who live a distance from the board of elections in their county,” the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition said in response to LaRose’s announcement. “It does nothing to help prevent congestion and traffic back ups at busy [boards of elections]. It does nothing to help voters who are concerned with using the United States Postal Service to return ballot applications and ballots.”

  • Texas

    What happened: Gov. Greg Abbott restricted counties to one absentee ballot drop-off location after populous Democratic counties pushed for more, and he also allowed poll watchers to patrol and observe each box. A district court blocked Abbott’s move, but the state Supreme Court later upheld the governor’s authority to issue such an order.

  • What experts say: Sarah Labowitz of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas called it “yet another thinly disguised attempt to stymie the vote,” saying, “The governor should work with counties to ensure that all timely mailed ballots are received and counted, and that all voters appearing at polling places to submit ballots or vote are free from harassment.”

  • Myth: There is a vast conspiracy to transport voters to the wrong precinct

  • For years, right-wing media have pushed the myth that Democrats bring in voters from other precincts to cast illegal ballots. But each time Republican officials make this claim during an election, they are quickly debunked. For example, in 2017, President Donald Trump and his staff claimed that Massachusetts residents were bused into New Hampshire to vote in the 2016 election. Among other factors that dispelled claims of such voter fraud, a report from The Washington Post found no evidence of a suspicious surge of voter turnout in the state.

  • Arizona

    What happened: Arizona has regulations that ban out-of-precinct voting (the “OOP policy”) and requires officials to throw away ballots of eligible voters who turned up at the wrong precinct to vote. The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee challenged these provisions in 2016, and this past January the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the laws had a racially discriminatory intent. The Supreme Court will hear the case in 2021.

  • What experts say: “This system places a heavy burden on people of color. In 2016, for example, the rate of OOP voting in Pima County was 150 percent higher for Hispanics, 80 percent higher for blacks, and 74 percent higher for Native Americans than for white voters,” wrote Mark Joseph Stern, who covers courts and law for Slate.

  • Myth: Revoking the right to vote is an act of justice

  • Right-wing media and Republicans alike claim that banning people incarcerated for a felony conviction from voting is a fair act of justice and that Democrats aim to restore the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people only in order to gain more votes for themselves. For example, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham claimed that Michael Bloomberg raised millions of dollars to pay restitution for former felons in Florida in order to “actually buy votes.” In addition to repeating this complaint that former felons will vote Democratic, Kevin Williamson of the National Review Online added “it is not obvious why the restoration of convicted felons’ voting rights is a good idea at all. … We do not trust them with that power because of the contempt for the law they have demonstrated.”

  • Florida

    What happened: The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that felons in Florida who still owe fines and fees may not register to vote leading up to the general election, despite a 2018 amendment to the state constitution that ended the disenfranchisement of those convicted of felonies.

  • What experts say: “This ruling runs counter to the foundational principle that Americans do not have to pay to vote,” said Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “The gravity of this decision cannot be overstated. It is an affront to the spirit of democracy.”

  • Myth: Noncitizen voting is a persistent problem

  • Right-wing media have continuously claimed that a substantial number of undocumented immigrants vote in elections and that Democrats enable them to do so. From February 2019 through at least mid-July, for example, conservative organization Judicial Watch rolled out Facebook ads claiming that “25% of noncitizens are registered to vote” and “illegal Aliens are voting.” When Election Integrity Project-California President Linda Paine was asked on Fox Nation if it was a “given” that undocumented immigrants would vote in California, she baselessly responded, “Absolutely.” But research from the Brennan Center for Justice has found that noncitizen voting is practically nonexistent.

  • Kansas

    What happened:  In June, Kansas asked the Supreme Court to rule on a state law requiring residents to prove their citizenship when registering to vote after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement.

  • What experts say: “This law disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansans, denying them the most fundamental right in our democracy,” Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, told ABC News.

  • Myth: Trump won the 2020 presidential election

  • Multiple reports have shown that pro-Trump legal efforts in the wake of the president’s 2020 election loss were planned in advance in expectation of Trump’s inability to win the popular or electoral vote. The rapid and cascading failure rate of these lawsuits, however, indicates that that they may have never been intended to succeed in court and were instead an anti-democratic communications effort to renew the baseless right-wing media myth of systemic voter fraud in American elections. In this respect, they have unfortunately been successful.

    Millions of Trump’s supporters seem to have bought into this myth, of which his post-election lawsuits are only the most recent iteration of his yearslong campaign to delegitimize American democracy to his personal benefit. For Trump then, the frivolous legal nature of his post-election lawsuits that alleged massive election fraud but were unable to produce any corroborating evidence are an embarrassment only to the professional credibility of his attorneys. For the soon to be former president, they are a successful way to sulk out of office while denying the obvious. Even in the face of unprecedented attempts to suppress the American vote in enthusiastic collaboration with right-wing media and his Republican enablers, Donald Trump could not prevent a popular referendum on his failures as president.

  • What experts say: In a comprehensive list of the frivolous allegations and subsequent failures of the pro-Trump post-election litigation, Emily Bazelon of The New York Times pointed out that “Mr. Trump has shown nothing like systemic fraud in any of the lawsuits, 19 and counting, that his campaign and allies have filed since Election Day as they seek to block certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the Electoral College. The allegations of fraud are a smattering of unverified accusations about the voting or counting process, usually directly affecting too few ballots to change a state’s results.”