How false claims of election fraud spread

Trump campaign has had a bad 72 hours in courts in their efforts to challenge the results by arguing that there was widespread fraud.

Since Friday, state and federal judges in Pennsylvania have rejected Trump’s challenges to small batches of ballots ranging from the hundreds to the low thousands; Biden leads Pennsylvania by more than 68,000 votes, according to Decision Desk HQ. Judges have also undermined some of the legal theories that underpin the campaign’s effort to stop Pennsylvania from officially declaring that President-elect Joe Biden won the state.

The morning after Election Day, Trump declared that he would take the election to the Supreme Court, invoking the image of another Bush v. Gore, when the justices halted a ballot recount in Florida that handed the 2000 election to former president George W. Bush. Two weeks later, the legal landscape does not look at all like 2000. Trump would have to find legal paths to flip multiple states that Biden won, and the only case pending before the Supreme Court involves the fate of the 10,000 absentee ballots that arrived in Pennsylvania after Election Day.

But Trump’s scorched-Earth efforts to discredit the entire election process resulted in some states adopting the practice of live-streaming the counting process to make it transparent. Other states had started the practice even earlier for previous elections. But live-streaming has had the paradoxical effect of increasing claims of fraud because of viewers misinterpreting routine legal actions of elections officials as fraudulent and then spreading these baseless accusations in the media.

At a vote-counting center in Montgomery county, Maryland, a man sat in a room with other election workers, wearing a grey hat and dark purple rubber gloves. He unfolded a ballot, looked around and leaned forward to mark it. The man appeared on a Yahoo Finance livestream of the center. The video went viral, one version ending up on YouTube, where the narrator said they found it on 4chan.

“Do you notice that, folks?” said the narrator. “How he looks around to see if anyone is watching him – as if he’s about to commit a crime?”

The video spread across social media, viewers claiming the election worker was committing fraud. Then election officials launched an investigation and found the voter hadn’t used a dark enough pen to mark their ballot; the worker was darkening their selections – a routine practice.

In Delaware county, Pennsylvania, a video was taken from the live stream showing a woman filling in ballots. It went viral, proliferating further after Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point, a rightwing student organization, showed it during his election live stream.

A spokesperson told USA Today the video had been misleadingly cropped; there were election observers at the end of the table and the worker was manually transcribing damaged ballots, a common and lawful practice.

John Oliver debunks some of the other bogus claims of election fraud

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