As Florida continues its legally mandated recount of some crucial races following Tuesday's midterm elections, President Donald Trump and other Republicans are claiming, without any evidence, that massive voter fraud has occurred in the Sunshine State. In both the gubernatorial and Senate races, Republicans Ron DeSantis, and Rick Scott are still ahead of their respective opponents, Democrats Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson, as of Monday at 12 p.m. EST, but the GOP is claiming Democrats are trying to "steal" the seats.
The myth of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. has been debunked multiple times by researchers, government officials, and federal courts. But that didn't stop Trump from demanding that all recount efforts be immediately stopped, ignoring the fact that counting every vote is the point of democracy.
Trump tweeted: "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!"
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2018
Trump has spent a great part of the last week railing, without any evidence, against "voter fraud" in Florida. He did something similar after the 2016 presidential election, in which he lost the popular vote. There was no evidence of voter fraud then, either. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy and law institute, voter fraud serious enough tilt an election is virtually a myth.
The scarce times there have been reports of voter fraud it can be traced directly to machine or human error. A 2012 investigation by the News21 journalism project found 2,068 cases of alleged election-fraud cases in general elections between 2000 and 2012, out of 146 million registered voters — which translates to approximately 0.000003% alleged cases in a 12-year period. The report also found that nearly half of these alleged cases weren’t deemed credible.
So, why are Republicans alleging widespread voter fraud in Florida? On Tuesday night, it looked like Scott, who is currently the Governor of Florida, would defeat incumbent Senator Bill Nelson in the Senate race and DeSantis would beat Democrat Andrew Gillum in the state's gubernatorial race. Gillum even conceded Tuesday night, but then walked it back when after the vote counting continued and DeSantis' lead significantly narrowed.
Per Florida law, an automatic machine recount is triggered immediately when the margin is within less than half of a percentage point. The Florida races for Governor and Senate were declared within the margins for a recount officially over the weekend. As of Monday, DeSantis had about 33,000 more votes than Gillum, and Scott had a lead of roughly 12,5000 votes over Nelson.
In a tweet Friday, Trump made it seem like these votes were magically "found." But despite his conspiracy theories, it is completely normal for results to change in an election as more votes — including from vote-by-mail, provisional, and overseas ballots — are counted. A race being "called" by the media is not an official declaration of results.
"Election officials are literally just counting the ballots. This isn’t corruption or fraud. It is literally the best of democracy," David Becker, the executive director for the Center for Election Innovation and Research, said on Twitter. "Let election officials do their job and count the ballots."
Local officials in Florida have found absolutely no evidence of voter fraud, either. State election monitors in Broward County — which has been singled out by Trump and Scott due to its long history of election-related issues, none of which are related to voter fraud — told the Miami Herald there's no evidence of voter fraud in the county. In Palm Beach County, Democratic State Attorney Dave Aronberg says there's no proof supporting the election-fraud claims.
Scott's own State Department has said via a spokesperson: "Our staff has seen no evidence of criminal activity at this time." The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is tasked with overseeing elections, has not opened an investigation into claims of voter fraud — because there isn't any evidence. Except for the claims being peddled by the president and other Republicans online, the department hasn't received any official complaints.