Persily and Stewart NYT Oped: “Trump Is Wrong. There’s No Evidence of Election Fraud in Philadelphia. The Claim Itself Is Fraudulent”


Joe Biden’s lead in the presidential election results in Pennsylvania has now surpassed 81,000 votes, far exceeding Donald Trump’s 44,000-vote victory margin there four years ago. Yet the Trump campaign continues to claim in court huge but incalculable levels of fraud, particularly in Philadelphia.

As with cases filed elsewhere around the country, Mr. Trump will not succeed. Even a cursory examination of the data refutes any notion of substantial voting fraud…

Just because Mr. Biden did worse than Mrs. Clinton and underperformed expectations this year does not disprove possible fraud, of course. Central to the “bad things are happening in Philadelphia” claim by Mr. Trump is the notion that a suspicious number of absentee ballots came in for Mr. Biden in Philadelphia. Absentee ballot fraud — either from dead people voting or election officials stuffing ballot boxes — is central to the Trump campaign’s claim of a stolen election. Again, the available evidence suggests nothing irregular.

Mr. Biden received a higher percentage of the vote by mail than he did in the Election Day vote throughout the state. Philadelphia, which is much more Democratic than the rest of the state — 76 percent of the county’s voters are registered as Democrats, compared to 47 percent statewide — lies just where we would expect it to be, given the partisanship of the county.

Skeptics of this analysis are likely to say that it is irrelevant, because the margins were so close that even a small number of manufactured ballots could make a difference. To this, we offer two rebuttals.

The first is that Mr. Biden’s lead in the state, over 81,000 votes, is not close, and continues to grow. Second, for Mr. Biden’s lead to be the result of “stuffed” absentee ballots in Philadelphia would require that over 20 percent of mail ballots there to have been fraudulent. Such a large number of questionable ballots would have tripped off alarm bells for the Democratic and Republican officials who were overseeing the count.

Statistical evidence such as this should not be necessary to cast doubt on the fraud claims being made in court by Mr. Trump’s campaign. The arguments simply are implausible on their face, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The allegations suggest a conspiracy or a remarkable coincidence of Republican and Democratic election officials in multiple states looking past or covering up hundreds of thousands of illegal votes.

That’s not all that is implausible. The purported fraud appears to have affected only the top of the ballot and not the down-ballot races. Republican congressional candidates were surprisingly successful in those same states where allegations of illegality in the presidential race have been made.


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