For the first time since Election Day, President Donald Trump will stage a political rally — traveling to Valdosta, Georgia, to campaign on Dec. 5 for the state’s two Republican senators.
Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were unable to get 50% of the vote in the Nov. 3 election, forcing both into Jan. 5 runoff elections against their respective Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
In advance of Trump’s visit, we recap here our fact-checking reports on the Georgia races — which will decide control of the Senate.
We also review the president’s false, misleading and unfounded statements about alleged election fraud in Georgia — a state that President-elect Joe Biden won by nearly 13,000 votes, according to the state’s certified election results.
Trump’s Election Fraud Allegations
Georgia signature checks: In a nearly 46-minute video that he posted on social media on Dec. 2, Trump wrongly claimed Georgia didn’t properly check signatures from mail-in ballots and misleadingly claimed the signature checks were left out of the recount.
“In the recent recount in Georgia, which means nothing because they don’t want to check signatures, and if you’re not going to check signatures in Georgia, it doesn’t work,” Trump said. “But we have a secretary of state, and a governor who made it very difficult to check signatures.”
As we have written, Georgia election officials check signatures twice: once when a voter requests a mail-in ballot, and then again when the ballot is returned. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said Georgia strengthened its signature match for this election, and trained election officials on Georgia Bureau of Investigation signature-matching techniques. Trump is correct that signature checks were not part of the hand recount. Once a signature is verified on the ballot’s outer envelope, the ballot is separated from the envelope for counting. This protects voter privacy.
Rejected ballots in Georgia: Trump again falsely claimed that the percentage of ballots rejected in Georgia was suspiciously low.
“In swing state after swing state, the number of ballots rejected has been dramatically lower than what would have been expected based on prior experience,” Trump said. “In Georgia, just 0.2%, that’s substantially less than 1%, of mail-in ballots have been rejected. … Nothing was rejected, practically, compared to 6.4% in 2016.”
As he has in the past, Trump is conflating the ballots rejected just for signature issues in this election with ballots rejected in past elections for all reasons — usually for arriving too late. The percentage of mail-in ballots rejected in Georgia due to signature issues this year was about the same as in the 2016 and 2018 general elections.
Missed votes in Georgia: Trump falsely suggested that many votes from Trump supporters in Georgia remain uncounted. “Thousands of uncounted ballots were discovered in Floyd, Fayette, and Walton counties weeks after the election, and these ballots were mostly from Trump voters. They weren’t counted. They were from Trump voters,” he said.
It’s true that almost 6,000 previously uncounted or unreported votes in those counties (and Douglas County) were discovered by officials during Georgia’s hand recount of ballots after the election. But those votes for Trump and Biden have since been included in the overall tallies and didn’t change the outcome.
Gabriel Sterling, the voting systems implementation manager for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said that after including those additional votes for both candidates, Biden’s lead over Trump narrowed from 14,156 votes to 12,781 votes.
See “Trump’s ‘Most Important’ Speech Was Mostly False” for more.
Biden-only voters: In a Nov. 29 interview on Fox News, Trump baselessly said that “there were a lot of ballots where it was just Biden on top,” and no other candidates selected in the other races, because Democrats were rushing to forge ballots for Biden.
“They say that I was doing so much better than they thought that they panicked, and they started just doing ballot after ballot very quickly and just checking the Biden name on top. They didn’t have time,” Trump said, not explaining who “they” were. “So, you have all these ballots with just one name checked. People don’t vote that way.”
In making this unsupported claim, Trump repeated a flawed conspiracy theory that one of his campaign advisers, Steve Cortes, previously had suggested about Georgia. Cortes claimed “there were almost 96,000 people in Georgia, allegedly, who voted Biden-only and then did not vote for Senate.”
Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told us it is not possible to know how many Georgians voted for Biden and no other candidate. That “would require individual-level information from ballots, not aggregation information about ballots cast in each race,” he said.
Instead, while Biden garnered more votes than Ossoff in Georgia, that’s likely because of ticket-splitting, when a voter picks a presidential candidate of one party and a Senate candidate of another party, and “ballot roll-off,” which is when voters skip certain races.
See “Trump Repeats Baseless, False Claims About the Election” and “Faulty Claim About ‘Biden-Only’ Ballots in Georgia” for more.
Two days after Election Day, Trump made several unfounded, baseless and specious claims at the White House about alleged election counting issues in Georgia.
Stopped counting: Trump claimed that he “won by a lot … with a lead of over getting close to 300,000 votes on election night in Georgia.” But “a pipe burst in a far away location, totally unrelated to the location of what was happening and they stopped counting for four hours,” saying “a lot of things happened” during that time to steal the election from him.
But the Trump campaign has provided no evidence of fraud. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, a water leak at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, which serves as a ballot processing site, caused a several hours delay in vote-counting on election night. No ballots were damaged, and vote processing resumed normally.
In a Nov. 21 opinion piece for the Washington Post, Raffensperger described the state’s election process he oversaw as “secure, reliable and efficient,” dismissing criticism of it as “unfair and unwarranted.”
Post-election votes: Trump claimed that votes were “coming in after Election Day” in Georgia. But there is no evidence to support his claim.
The Trump campaign and the Georgia Republican Party filed a lawsuit that included an affidavit from a Republican poll observer who expressed concern that 53 ballots may have been received in Chatham County after the 7 p.m. deadline on Election Day but intermingled with on-time ballots. Superior Court Judge James Bass dismissed the lawsuit, stating: “[T]he Court finds that there is no evidence that the ballots referenced in the petition were received after 7:00 p.m. on election day, thereby making those ballots invalid.”
Election observers: Trump also claimed — without evidence — that his campaign had been “denied access to observe in critical places in Georgia.” David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, specifically claimed that GOP observers were denied proper access in Fulton County, where Atlanta is located.
But in a press conference on Nov. 6, Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, said that while there have been allegations in other states about monitors not being allowed to watch the counts, “In Georgia, this process is and will remain open and transparent to monitors.”
See “Trump’s Wild, Baseless Claims of Illegal Voting” for more.
A Perdue TV ad misleadingly claimed that Ossoff would “defund police” and provide “voting rights for illegal immigrants.”
Ossoff has repeatedly said he does not support defunding police. And while he supports providing a pathway to citizenship to some 11 million immigrants currently in the country illegally, he does not support voting rights for noncitizens.
An Ossoff TV ad offered similar side-by-side comments from Perdue and Trump that the ad contends show Perdue “ignored the medical experts, downplayed the crisis and left us unprepared.”
We’ll leave it to readers to decide for themselves if Perdue’s comments did that, but some of the comments highlighted in the ad came early in the year at a time when medical experts were making similar comments. And Perdue made other comments warning about the seriousness of the virus and reinforcing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to reduce the spread of the virus.
See “Opening Ads in the Perdue-Ossoff Runoff” for more.
Ossoff’s production company received payments from a Hong Kong media company and Al Jazeera for the rights to air investigative pieces, but a Republican TV ad misleadingly claimed Ossoff got cash from “Chinese communists and terrorist sympathizers.”
See “Twisting the Facts on ‘Dirty Money’ in the Georgia Race” for more.
A Republican TV ad falsely suggested that “liberal megadonors” are spending $1 billion in “dark money” to help Ossoff in the runoff race. That’s how much multiple experts estimate may be spent on all candidates in both Georgia Senate elections for the entire 2020 campaign.
See “A Misleading Dark Money Attack on Ossoff” for more.
An ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee misleadingly says Jon Ossoff “praised” the Green New Deal, a proposal that Ossoff has repeatedly said that he does not support.
See “NRSC’s Dual Attack on Warnock and Ossoff” for more.
An ad from Warnock claimed that Loeffler “immediately” began “dumping stocks” after a January Senate briefing about the coronavirus. But his campaign provided no evidence she made that investment decision. Loeffler has said her family’s investments are managed by third-party advisers without her input. Also, the Senate’s ethics panel investigated allegations that Loeffler may have violated federal laws or Senate rules against insider trading and found no evidence that she had.
A Loeffler ad claimed that Warnock “hosted a rally for Communist dictator Fidel Castro” in 1995. But her campaign has provided no evidence that Warnock, who was a youth pastor for a Harlem-based church at the time, was involved in inviting Cuba’s former dictator to speak at that church more than two decades ago.
Loeffler’s ad also said Warnock “called police thugs and gangsters,” leaving out that his comments were specific to the circumstances surrounding the death of Michael Brown, a young Black man who was shot and killed in 2014 by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His campaign said he wasn’t referring to all officers.
See “Loeffler-Warnock Runoff Starts with Attack Ads” for more.
A conservative group’s deceptive TV ad suggested that Warnock supports defunding the police. He has said multiple times that he doesn’t.
See “Ad Links Warnock to ‘Defunding the Police’” for more.
An NRSC ad says Warnock “supports cashless bail for criminals,” which “puts the most violent right back into our neighborhoods.” Warnock’s campaign has said that he “supports ending cash bail for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders, not an all out ban on cash bail.”
In 2018, for example, Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, supported an ordinance approved by the Atlanta City Council that eliminated the requirement for individuals charged with committing certain low-level crimes to pay a cash bond to secure their pretrial release from custody.
See “NRSC’s Dual Attack on Warnock and Ossoff” for more.
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