WASHINGTON — Most major media outlets, including the Associated Press, projected former vice president Joe Biden to win Pennsylvania and the presidential election Saturday morning, making him President-Elect Joe Biden.
Soon after, President Donald Trump issued a statement to the media that challenged the projections and declared his intention to take the election to the courts.
The VERIFY team put together a fact-check on Trump's statement. The current president's message is filled with a mixture of facts, misleading claims and falsehoods.
CLAIM: “Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states… Legal votes decide who is president, not the news media.”
These claims are true, but it lacks context.
While media results are “projections” of the official state counts, historically candidates have still used them to claim victory or to concede. In the 2016 election, based only on media projections, Donald Trump claimed victory at 2:50 AM on Nov. 4.
The President is correct that media projections of election winners are not official determinations of a state’s results. Those come in the form of certified results. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a list of all 50 states and when they must turn in their certified results. Different states have different deadlines ranging from days to weeks.
The states also vary on their deadlines for certifying the votes, from as soon as Nov. 10, 2020, for Oklahoma and Louisiana to Dec. 11, 2020, in California. Some states have no specific deadline for certification. Rhode Island, for example, says: “The state board shall immediately, after the result has been ascertained, furnish to each candidate elected a certificate of that candidate’s election."
The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a map showing the different deadlines.
The next step after the state certifications is the meeting of the Electoral College, which officially casts the votes on Dec. 14.
CLAIM: “highly contested states” are “headed for mandatory recounts.”
This claim is possible based on current numbers, but it's not guaranteed.
There are 21 states with automatic or mandatory recounts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. These recounts are triggered when the vote results are within a certain threshold that varies according to state.
Of the states that currently have close vote counts and automatic recounts:
Arizona has an automatic recount if the threshold is “Less than or equal to the lesser of the following: 0.1% of the votes cast for both candidates or measures.” The threshold in AZ is currently .7% in Biden’s favor.
Michigan has an automatic recount if the threshold is “2,000 votes or less in a statewide primary or election.” In Michigan, Biden currently has a 146,123 vote lead.
Pennsylvania has an automatic recount threshold of “.5% or less.” The threshold in PA is currently .5%.
Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada and Wisconsin do not have automatic recounts, but they can be requested by a candidate if certain thresholds are met.
GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced the state would have a recount. A candidate can request a recount in Wisconsin if the difference between candidates is between one percent, the Wisconsin Elections Commission, but will have to pay for the recount if the difference in the race is greater than .25%. The difference in Wisconsin right now is just over .6% and the Trump campaign has indicated they will request a recount.
CLAIM: “That means counting all legal ballots, and not counting any illegal ballots.”
This claim is FALSE on multiple levels.
At this point, no state has reported processing any “illegal” votes.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has a detailed breakdown of when states stopped accepting ballots via mail. In all states, as long as a ballot was received by Election Day, it is perfectly legal no matter how long it takes the state to process it. Many states also allowed ballots that were received after Election Day to be counted as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3.
According to USA.gov, there are multiple types of voter fraud such as when someone “illegally casts a vote in the name of a dead person or someone who’s moved."
Voter fraud is considered a federal election crime. Trump’s campaign did not provide evidence to prove what he called “illegal votes” and his team hasn’t provided any evidence of that.
CLAIM: “In Pennsylvania, for example, our legal observers were not permitted meaningful access to watch the counting process.”
Poll watchers were never barred or blocked from polling locations, but had originally been kept outside a 20-foot perimeter from the vote counters due to COVID-19 protocols.
Donald J. Trump Inc. filed an emergency injunction to allow observers to within six feet of vote counters in Philadelphia County. Trump’s team alleged they could not see the ballot canvassing process because they were kept too far away. They asked that the vote count be stopped.
The Philadelphia Board of Elections appealed the ruling, but Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon ordered that “all candidates, watchers, or candidate representatives be permitted to be present for the canvassing process … and be permitted to observe all aspects of the canvassing process within 6 feet, while adhering to all COVID-19 protocols, including, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.”
Members of the public also had the opportunity to watch the vote-counting process in Philadelphia through the city’s livestream.
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