A group of stubborn Republican holdouts are refusing to acknowledge the reality that President-elect Joe Biden won the election — and that he did so without any impropriety.
The race had been called for Biden by all major news networks by Saturday morning, setting off a flurry of congratulations from world leaders, and celebrations in major US cities. The Biden campaign responded with victory speeches Saturday night, and began to to roll out its official transition website as well as Biden’s early executive agenda.
But a number of Republican lawmakers responded by echoing President Donald Trump’s incorrect claims that the results need to be investigated, and that Biden’s win was due to voter fraud.
Just hours after news networks called the election for Biden, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) promised the committee would investigate “all credible allegations of voting irregularities and misconduct.” Thus far there have been no credible claims of voter fraud.
And Sunday morning, Graham sent a message to Trump on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, bringing up conspiracy theories about bad computers, and saying, “Don’t concede, Mr. President. Fight hard.”
In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) refused to acknowledge that Biden is the president-elect, saying, “It’s time for the president’s lawyers to present the facts and it’s time for those facts to speak for themselves.” He went on to admit further review is unlikely to overturn the results, but said inquiries should continue to ensure “every illegal vote was challenged, and not counted.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) took a slightly softer approach on CBS’s Face the Nation, acknowledging that his home state’s vote count — which put Biden over the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed to win — is “probably correct, but there’s a reason that we do the count.” But he still wouldn’t go as far as acknowledging that Biden won.
In contrast, North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of the president, alleged, as the president has, that there was widespread voter fraud. As Stephanopoulos noted in his discussion with the governor, secretaries of state across the US have repeatedly said there has been no widespread fraud — and when pushed to provide evidence otherwise, Noem could not. Instead, she brought up the minor, and common, problems that election officials deal with routinely. She too, however, refused to acknowledge the reality that Trump lost the election.
Republican congressional leaders have done little to clear up these attempts to cast doubt on the election’s results. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that “every legal vote” should be counted and “all sides must get to observe the process,” but has refused to elaborate or give further comment.
In the House, on the other hand, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has encouraged Republican efforts to undermine the election’s results, and suggested, without evidence, that there may have been illegal votes cast.
“What we need in the presidential race is to make sure every legal vote is counted, every recount is completed, and every legal challenge should be heard,” McCarthy told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo Sunday. “Then, and only then, America will decide who won the race.”
As Vox’s Jen Kirby has explained, only legal votes are being counted, and voter fraud is, in general, rare:
In Oregon, which has been voting by mail for about two decades, officials referred 54 cases of possible voter fraud to law enforcement in 2016. Of those, 22 people — representing just 0.0001 percent of all ballots cast that year — were found guilty of having voted in two states.
Another analysis by the Washington Post and the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center found officials in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon referred 372 possible cases to law enforcement of double voting or voting on behalf of a dead person, out of about 14.6 million mail-in votes in the 2016 and 2018 general elections. That comes out to about 0.0025 percent of all ballots.
A few Republicans have said it’s time to accept Biden’s victory
While many Republicans still refuse to take a stand against the president, some did make a break from the party line and acknowledged Biden as the election winner.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) congratulated Biden on Saturday, and said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that “it’s destructive to the cause of democracy to suggest widespread fraud or corruption. There’s just no evidence of that at this stage.” He went on to say the US needs to now “get behind the new president.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who hasn’t been afraid of confronting the president over his handling of the pandemic, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he hopes the president “does the right thing and concedes.”
Perhaps most notable, however, was former president George W. Bush, who released a statement indicating that he had called the president-elect to congratulate Biden on his victory.
“Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country,” Bush said. “The President-elect reiterated that while he ran as a Democrat, he will govern for all Americans. I offered him the same thing I offered Presidents Trump and Obama: my prayers for his success, and my pledge to help in any way I can.”
As Vox’s Alex Ward has explained, it does not really matter whether Trump concedes — Biden will be inaugurated, and can forcibly remove Trump from the White House at that time if need be. Nevertheless, it remains distressing that Republicans would support the president in his efforts to disrupt trust in voting, and suggest that he is correct in claiming there is something wrong with the results — when there most certainly is not.