MAGA Movement Still Promoting Bogus Claims That ‘Fraud’ Cost Trump 2020 Election

Sidney Powell, the former Trump attorney who promoted wildly implausible conspiracy theories about the 2020 election being stolen through rigged voting machines and foreign governments, is still at it. The edition of her Defending the Republic newsletter distributed Monday was headlined, “Study finds that Trump almost certainly won in 2020.”

Powell, who pleaded guilty last fall to six misdemeanor charges related to Trump’s effort to overturn the election results in Georgia, has joined a parade of right-wing media outlets trumpeting claims by The Heartland Institute that Donald Trump “almost certainly” would have won the 2020 election if not for what Heartland claims was massive mail-in ballot fraud.

A recently released Heartland Institute study builds on the results of a poll conducted by Heartland and right-wing pollster Rasmussen in November and December. When the poll was released in mid-December, former President Donald Trump called it “the biggest story of the year.”

The Heartland Institute is a libertarian-leaning think tank known for downplaying the health risk of cigarettes long after they were known to cause cancer, and for playing a leading role in questioning the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. Rasmussen has been a controversial polling firm known for its Republican-leaning results for years. In December 2020, Rasmussen’s Twitter feed promoted the Trump team’s false legal theory that Vice President Mike Pence had the authority to single-handedly refuse to count Electoral College votes from six battleground states won by President Joe Biden.

The recent survey and related claims were trumpeted by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk on his podcast, on which Donald Kendal, deputy director of Heartland’s Socialism Research Center, claimed that “tens of millions” of fraudulent and illegitimate votes were cast. Those claims have been promoted by Fox News, the Heritage Foundation and Washington Times, and Washington Examiner.

The Heartland-Rasmussen survey asked people who voted by mail in 2020 a series of questions, including whether they had filled out a ballot for a friend or family member, had a friend or family member fill out their ballot for them, signed a ballot for a friend or family member, or voted in a state where they are no longer a permanent resident. Heartland researchers claim that the data allowed them to conclude that more than 28 percent of respondents “admitted to committing at least one kind of voter fraud” and that “more than one-in-four ballots cast by mail in 2020 were likely cast fraudulently, and thus should not have been counted.” The groups statistics on “fraud”—which they conclude was at about the same rate among Republican and Democratic voters—would include anyone assisting a spouse or other family member in completing a ballot.

When the Rasmussen survey was released in December, Washington Post columnist Philip Bump wrote that it “instantly fails the smell test,” adding, “To assume that there was rampant fraud because a partisan pollster generated numbers showing that an incredible — or rather, noncredible — number of voters ‘remember’ having done things that violate the law is ridiculous.” The Colorado Pols website had a similar reaction, calling the survey “gobsmackingly dumb” and observing, “If these numbers were even close to being accurate, it shouldn’t be very difficult for Trump and his acolytes to have long ago proven their voter fraud allegations.”

Questions about the validity of the survey and the conclusions Heartland is drawing from it have come from across the political spectrum. A prominent conservative “election integrity” activist told the right-wing Epoch Times that the survey questions on which Heartland based its conclusions were “vague and ambiguous, commingling permissible with impermissible behaviors, thus diminishing the quality and usefulness of responses.”

On Jan. 2, 2024, a voter data expert hired by the Trump campaign in 2020 to evaluate evidence of voter fraud wrote in USA Today that his company’s analysis “found no evidence of voter fraud sufficient to change the outcome of any election,” but that didn’t stop Trump from continuing to spread election lies. “If voter fraud had impacted the 2020 election, it would already have been proven,” Ken Block wrote. “Maintaining the lies undermines faith in the foundation of our democracy.”

In 2020, in response to Trump charges about voting by mail, the Brennan Center for Justice challenged the “false narrative of vote-by-mail fraud.” The Brennan Center noted that in the previous two presidential elections roughly one out of every four Americans cast a ballot by mail, and that despite a “dramatic increase in mail voting” in recent years, “fraud rates remain infinitesimally small.”

This month, the Carter Center and the Baker Institute for Public Policy released a bipartisan set of principles designed to instill confidence in elections. Among other things, it notes that “offering multiple modes of voting (early, mail, Election Day) makes voting more resilient against potential attacks.” David Carroll, director of the Carter Center’s Democracy Program, told the Associated Press, “Extreme polarization really has led, I think, to more questioning of election processes that, ironically, have only improved significantly over the last 25 years.”

In contrast, the MAGA movement’s claims about fraud in 2020 have been used to justify new restrictions on voting put in place by Republican legislators and governors since Trump’s defeat. Policy changes called for by Heartland include restricting mail-in voting and requiring mail-in voters to have their ballot signatures verified by a notary. “If state lawmakers fail to solve this problem, Americans’ confidence in the legitimacy of election in 2024 and beyond will likely decrease, paving the way for societal chaos and civil unrest.”

While recognizing the continuing need for stronger federal voting rights protections and the growing problem of violence and harassment of election officials, the Brennan Center wrote last year that there is also a “flourishing pro-democracy movement that has pushed many states to make important strides” to guarantee access to the ballot, protect election workers, and promote campaign finance reform.

People For the American Way is an active member of the Declaration for American Democracy coalition, and mobilizes its members to support stronger voting rights protections, resist voter suppression, challenge far-right disinformation and conspiracy theories, and hold Donald Trump accountable for his illegal efforts to stay in power after losing the 2020 election.


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The post MAGA Movement Still Promoting Bogus Claims That ‘Fraud’ Cost Trump 2020 Election appeared first on Right Wing Watch.


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