It's becoming increasingly clear that U.S. President Donald Trump is terrified of losing the election as his attempts to sway voters become more and more desperate. Part of Trump's strategy has been to spread misinformation, conspiracy theories, and outright lies in an attempt to break down public trust in the democratic process. And if he can't win, he says it'll be because the election is rigged — one of his most terrifying claims.
Between viral videos of Trump encouraging people to vote twice and Eric Trump falsely claiming that Democrats are blowing COVID-19 out of proportion to game the election, the internet, in particular, has been a cesspool of false information. So Trump is attacking Silicon Valley, too: When Twitter announced a new initiative to combat “false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election or other civic process,” including Trump's tweets, the president responded by accusing the company of “stifling free speech” and of trying to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.
The number of lies out there is so dizzying, sometimes it's hard to keep up. Ahead, we’ve fact-checked some of Trump’s biggest falsehoods and conspiracy theories.
Voter fraud is rampant and widespread.
“MAIL-IN VOTING WILL LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE,” Trump tweeted in May. “WE CAN NEVER LET THIS TRAGEDY BEFALL OUR NATION.” False. Study after study has found that voter fraud is incredibly rare, and that many allegations of fraud actually turn out to be administrative mistakes. A study conducted by the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) found that across 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, instances of potential fraud only amounted to 0.0025%.
As much as Trump might rail against mail-in voting and attempt to defund the U.S. Postal Service, there is widespread support for vote by mail. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of people support allowing anyone to vote by mail if they prefer. (There is a partisan divide, however — 87% of Democrats approve while only 49% of Republicans feel the same.) On top of that, studies show that voting by mail doesn't benefit either party exclusively — it just slightly increases turnout across the board.
You can vote twice.
Trump may tout himself as the “law and order” president, but during an interview on September 2, he blatantly suggested North Carolina residents test the integrity of the mail-in voting system and vote twice, once in person and once by mail. “Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if the [mail-in] system is as good as they say it is then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” Trump told WECT-TV in Wilmington.
But no, you can't vote twice — the president just doesn't understand laws. If you purposely vote twice, you could face felony charges, fines, and jail time depending on the state you live in. At least 28 states classify voting twice as a felony, according to The New York Times. Several other states consider it an infraction or misdemeanor. Even in states without specific legal language prohibiting voting twice, it is still illegal because of federal laws that set penalties at a fine up to $10,000 and prison sentence of up to five years. Many states already have established checks in place to prevent people from doing this.
Democrats are trying to steal the election.
On the first day of the Republican National Convention, Trump falsely claimed that Democrats were attempting to steal the election. How? By using COVID-19 as an excuse to expand mail-in voting. There is, of course, simply no basis for this. By expanding mail-in voting — which, as we mentioned, doesn't exclusively benefit either party — Democrats are simply trying to make the process safer. Because, you know, there's still a deadly pandemic going on.
While Trump himself has done a lot to instill fear and mistrust in the minds of voters, there is also a steady stream of misinformation coming from Trump loyalists and groups on social media. These viral posts have increased over the last several months. On April 3, Terrence K. Williams, an actor whom Trump has praised in the past, told his nearly 3 million Facebook followers that Democrats plan to light ballots on fire or throw them in the trash. “If you mail in your vote, your vote will be in Barack Obama’s fireplace,” said Williams. Okay.
According to an in-depth study conducted by ProPublica and global misinformation nonprofit First Draft, some of Facebook’s most popular posts about voting are false claims and conspiracy theories about stolen elections. These posts frequently come from Trump and prominent conservative outlets. The study found that “stolen elections” were among a few election-related terms that have nearly tripled in use since early April when Trump began attacking voting by mail.
You will get COVID-19 if you vote in person.
Confusingly, we're being told both that mail-in voting is rife with fraud and that voting in person is unsafe. Of course, the propaganda spreading on Facebook and other social media that you will get COVID-19 if you vote is just another form of voter suppression. To curb this and other forms of misinformation, Facebook has said it will remove all posts that tell people they will catch coronavirus if they vote. Should a post use the virus as a way to discourage people from voting in less obvious ways, the social networking site said it would attach a label and link to relevant information via its voter information center.
The lies and misinformation out there are rampant — but by fact-checking and only trusting verified sources, we can be prepared. Regarding staying safe while you vote, yes, voting by mail is a great option (just do it early!). But if you are comfortable voting in person and you wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer, and follow sensible social distancing precautions, the risk is low. Experts say that voting in person during the pandemic is about as safe as going to the grocery store. No matter how you choose to vote, make your voting plan now — and stick with it.
Joe Biden will raise taxes.
Ever since Biden released his proposed tax plan, the Trump administration and its supporters have latched onto the false idea that the Democratic candidate intends to raise taxes on the majority of Americans. A voice-over on a Trump ad campaign released on October 12 stated, “Biden’s plan is a 14 percent tax hike on middle-class families; 82 percent of Americans would pay more.” The statement is patently false, but despite Biden’s reiterated pledges that his tax plan will not affect the majority of Americans, it remains an often-used attack.
So what is Biden’s tax plan? According to Biden’s campaign website, the tax increases target three key areas: raising the top income tax rate to 39.6 percent for only those making more than $400,000 a year; increasing capital gains to the same percentage for investment income over $1 million annually; and imposing a 12.4 percent payroll tax on income above $400,000. Currently, payroll taxes only apply to the first $137,700. Biden said he will not raise taxes on people earning less than $400,000. Further analysis of Biden’s plan shows that virtually all revenue raised from these increases would come from the very wealthy and from corporations. Specifically, about half of it would come from the top 0.1 percent of earners with the top one percent paying 80 percent of the tax increase.
So the quick answer is: unless you make over $400,000 each year, this increase will not impact you. And if you do, the effect is marginal on an individual level considering that currently, the percentage for that tax bracket is 35 percent on income above $204,100 for single filings and $408,200 filing jointly.
Kamala Harris is a socialist.
A favoured attack Trump reserves for vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris is that she is “America’s most liberal senator,” even skewing further left on the political spectrum than self-proclaimed democratic socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders. The New York Times calls her a “pragmatic moderate,” while Fox News hosts insist that she is “a radical.”
Based on her stances on key issues, Harris falls further left on the political spectrum than her running mate, Biden, but a democratic socialist? Not even close. She is largely aligned with popular Democratic opinions on supporting law enforcement reforms. Rather than calling for defunding of police departments, Harris has spoken of “reimagining how we do public safety in America.” This sentiment, with varying degrees of specificity, is shared by the majority of voters, according to a 2020 Gallup poll. This same poll shows that only six percent of people surveyed thought no changes needed to be made to law enforcement.
While campaigning for the presidency herself, Harris professed initial support of eliminating private health insurance companies. In 2017, she was one of the first top Democrats to join Sanders’ Medicare for All bill. After ceding her candidacy in the 2020 presidential race, she quickly backtracked to a position more in agreement with her running mate, calling instead for bolstering the Affordable Care Act.
Perhaps the closest Harris gets to “socialist” policy is her co-sponsorship of the Green New Deal which conservatives decried a “socialist manifesto.”
Trump knows more about wind than you do.
“I know more about wind than you do. It is extremely expensive, kills all the birds, it’s very intermittent, got a lot of problems, and they happen to make the windmills in both Germany and China,” Trump told Biden at the last presidential debate in Nashville last month. Yes, birds do die flying into the spinning blades of large wind turbines, but as far as annual avian casualties are concerned, it is far from the greatest threat to our feathered friends. According to The New York Times, birds die far more frequently from collisions with buildings and cars. Even cats rank higher in the list of leading causes of deaths in birds.