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Marco Rubio spreads debunked claims about the 2020 election

“There are places like Wisconsin with over 500 illegal deposits…there are places like Georgia where liberal groups were paying people $10 per vote. … Look what happened in Arizona, 200,000 ballots, and the signatures didn’t match.”

— Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press”», May 19

In the race to join former President Donald Trump on the 2024 ticket as his running mate, candidates have had to follow his lead in questioning the integrity of U.S. elections. Many refuse to say they would accept the election results if Trump did not win. Some in the running echoed Trump’s lies, as Vivek Ramaswamy did when he said during one of the GOP primary debates that “the 2020 election was indeed stolen by big tech.” (The theory, without evidence, is that more media coverage of Hunter Biden’s laptop would have changed the election results.)

During a recent television appearance, Rubio managed to land a threesome.

He refused to say he would accept the results: “If the elections are unfair, I think they will be contested. »

He suggested that more media coverage of the laptop would have affected the results: “What undermines the election is when NBC News and every major US media outlet in 2020 censored the computer story Biden’s cell phone, which turned out to be true, and not the unprecedented Russian disinformation. »

And he made three specific claims about 2020 – one misleading, two debunked. Let’s look at them in the order in which he created them. A spokesperson for Rubio declined to respond in detail to his statements. She forwarded the office’s press release about her appearance, which presented her comments as addressing “legacy media’s one-sided questions about election denial.”

500 ‘illegal’ drop-off locations in Wisconsin

Rubio is referring to a July 2022 decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that found 528 drop boxes that were in place in 2020, during the pandemic, and 570 during a 2021 election were “unlawful under Wisconsin law “. In the 4-3 ruling, the court concluded that state law did not explicitly authorize drop boxes, even though they had been used in some jurisdictions for years. “An absentee ballot must be returned by mail or the voter must personally deliver it to the municipal clerk at the clerk’s office or other designated site,” the court said.

Officials “may have tried to make voting as easy as possible during the pandemic, but whatever their motivations, the WEC (Wisconsin Elections Commission) must follow Wisconsin laws,” the court said. “Good intentions never trump the law.”

Brian Hagedorn, one of the justices in the majority, emphasized in a concurring opinion: “This case is not about the risk of fraudulent votes or instilling confidence in elections. »

In other words, Rubio is relying on an after-the-fact court ruling narrowly focused on whether state laws allowed the use of drop boxes, even in the case of an emergency unique sanitary facility of its kind. The decision was close. In fact, the balance of power within the court has since shifted, and the now liberal-leaning court is considering whether it should overturn the decision.

Georgians received $10 per vote

This is a discredited lie, peddled by an organization, True the Vote, known for spreading false election information. True the Vote first made this claim in 2021, but after the state of Georgia launched an investigation and demanded proof, it attempted to retract the claim.

The investigation “discovered no evidence of the allegations made by True the Vote, but revealed True the Vote to be a deceptive and misleading company that…is untrustworthy and unable to provide any evidence for any of their fairy tale claims. ” Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State, a Republican, said in an email. “Like all lies about Georgia’s 2020 election, True the Vote’s fabricated claims about ballot harvesting voting have been repeatedly debunked, and anyone repeating them is either a willful dunce or a co-conspirator.

It is true that Vote did not respond to a request for comment. In short, the organization filed a complaint in November 2021 claiming that an anonymous source called “John Doe” said he had been one of several people who had been paid to collect and deliver mail-in ballots. correspondence – for a fee of about $10 per ballot – during the 2020 election. The complaint said this “ballot trafficking” was organized by “a network of non-governmental organizations” and that the source had been paid directly by one of these groups.

But the story fell apart when Georgian authorities tried to investigate. Truth the Vote first attempted to refuse a subpoena, citing confidentiality agreements, then attempted to withdraw the complaint. When Georgia refused to allow this, True the Vote admitted in a court filing that it had no confidentiality agreement or “identity and contact information” regarding its alleged source.

200,000 signatures do not match ballots in Arizona

As was the case with the Georgia example, Rubio is fanning a conspiracy theory that has little basis in fact.

Joe Biden won Arizona by just 10,457 votes, or 0.3% of the nearly 3.4 million votes cast. Afterward, Republicans claimed that Maricopa County, the state’s largest, had authorized the counting of tens of thousands of people with signature mismatches. Biden won the county by 45,109 votes, so his margin there was critical to his narrow victory.

Mark Brnovich, the Republican attorney general at the time, released a report in 2022 saying the signature verification system in the county was “insufficient to guard against abuse.” When a Democrat, Kris Mayes, became attorney general last year, she released internal documents from the Brnovich investigation that showed her investigators found no evidence of fraud or improper procedures. At one point, Brnovich even left out edits made by his own investigators refuting his claims. His staff informed him that the county had rigorous training and processes, as well as additional staff, to ensure signature verification.

As we noted, Rubio’s spokesperson did not explain where he got the 200,000 figure from. Our colleagues at FactCheck.org believe it came from a February 2022 “pilot study” funded by the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate. This study extrapolated from a sample of 499 early voting envelopes; more than 1.9 million early ballots were cast. The study claims that “200,000 mail-in ballots with mismatched signatures were counted without being examined (“cured”) in Maricopa. »

That’s not the same as 200,000 fraudulent signatures. Indeed, the study estimates that only 5,277 ballots should have been rejected. But again, all of these numbers are an extrapolation from a small sample — and we now know that Brnovich’s investigators found no evidence of a problem.

Trump sets high bar for vice presidential candidates. They look set to echo his debunked claims of voter fraud in 2020. Rubio’s statements, particularly regarding Georgia and Arizona – one of a notorious election conspiracy cluster; the other, extrapolated from a small sample, will likely pass Trump’s test. But they fail the Pinocchio test. Rubio wins four.

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