Trump Makes a Baseless Claim About ‘Massively Infected’ Ballots in Florida
What WAS Said
“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible — ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”
— President Trump, in a Twitter post on Monday morning
This lacks evidence.
For days, Mr. Trump has lobbed a series of misleading and baseless claims about the midterm election results in Florida. His latest missive about missing and forged ballots is no different.
And his suggestion that state election officials should declare Gov. Rick Scott the winner in the Senate race and former Representative Ron DeSantis victorious in the campaign for governor before a recount would violate Florida laws that outline a process for tallying ballots and certifying the results.
Mr. Scott and Mr. DeSantis are the Republican candidates in the two races. They each hold small leads in an ongoing recount.
Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State, which oversees elections, said on Monday that it was monitoring the certification of results and had seen “no evidence of criminal activity.” The Associated Press reported that a federal judge also said Monday that he had seen no evidence of wrongdoing in vote tallying.
By “forged” signatures, Mr. Trump is possibly referring to a lawsuit filed by the campaign of Senator Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent Mr. Scott is seeking to unseat. It challenges election officials’ rejection of ballots with voters’ signatures that do not match state records.
But these mismatches do not necessarily indicate fraud, as Mr. Trump claims.
Florida voters, including a former congressman, have said their ballots were not counted because their signatures were ruled invalid. Signatures can change over time, with age or because of diseases like strokes or arthritis, and election officials do not regularly update signatures in official records, said Michael McDonald, a political-science professor at the University of Florida.
As for “missing” ballots, Mr. Trump may be repeating suspicions by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, about a box labeled “provisional ballots” that was left behind at a school that served as a polling place. The box did not contain ballots, but rather pens, envelopes and signs.
Mr. Trump may also be referring to the number of absentee ballots that were requested from voters but not submitted.
According to the latest data from the Florida Department of State, about 864,000 ballots have not yet been returned. Of those unreturned ballots, about 375,000 were for voters who are registered as Democrats, compared with 271,000 for Republican voters and 218,000 for voters with other or no party affiliated. And some voters have said that they never received their ballots.
Protracted vote counting is not uncommon; state election officials routinely continue to process mail-in ballots and verify provisional ballots after the first results are reported. Mr. McDonald said Democratic candidates generally tend to gain votes as these ballots are counted because voters who choose such ballots are often younger or lean Democratic.
From Wednesday to Sunday, officials counted more than 45,000 additional votes for Andrew Gillum, Mr. DeSantis’s Democratic opponent in the governor’s race, and more than 46,000 votes for Mr. Nelson as he sought to keep his Senate seat.
But Mr. DeSantis also gained more than 23,000 votes and Mr. Scott more than 24,000 votes, contradicting Mr. Trump’s claim that election officials “never find Republican votes.”
Central to Mr. Trump’s complaint is Broward County, the second most populous county in Florida and a Democratic stronghold. The county added nearly 28,000 votes apiece for Mr. Gillum and Mr. Nelson from Wednesday to Sunday. Broward County also added nearly 13,000 votes for Mr. DeSantis and more than 12,000 votes for Mr. Scott in that time.
“This is a completely transparent process,” Mr. McDonald said. “There’s nothing untoward going on. It’s a typical thing of how elections are run and conducted. It’s by the books and by the law in Florida.”
While the extended counting of votes has so far favored Democrats this year in Florida, that is not always the case. In the 2016 election, Mr. Trump’s lead over Hillary Clinton widened in Wisconsin after a recount.
Linda Qiu is a fact-check reporter, based in Washington. She came to The Times in 2017 from the fact-checking service PolitiFact. @ylindaqiu
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