We fact-checked Trump’s claims of election fraud in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania

Evan Vucci / AP
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In a brief address from the White House Thursday night, President Donald Trump claimed without evidence that the election was rigged in states across the nation, and made a number of specific claims about Pennsylvania’s election and the ballot-counting process in the state and Philadelphia. Here’s what he said, and what we know to be correct:

Trump: “Partisan Democrats have allowed the ballots to be received three days after the election, and we think much more than that.”

The facts: Election officials will be counting ballots that were received between 8 p.m. on Election Day and 5 p.m. Friday, as long as there is no evidence showing the votes were cast after Tuesday. The issue has been litigated before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump: "They are counting those without any identification whatsoever.”

The facts: Pennsylvania requires people voting in person to provide proof of identity if it is their first time voting at that precinct. That’s also required from anyone registering for a mail-in ballot. Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State, Kathy Boockvar, has advised that ballots should not be counted if a name on a mail-in ballot can’t be verified, or if identification was not received. But such voters have six days after their ballot is received, but no later than Nov. 12, to show ID and have their vote count. The Trump campaign has gone to court over that.

Trump: “In Philadelphia, observers have been kept far away, so far people have been using binoculars to see.”

The facts: This was true at one point. We photographed one observer using binoculars during the vote count inside the Convention Center on Tuesday. The city allowed observers to be six feet from the first row of counters’ tables after a Commonwealth Court judge’s order Thursday.

In the City of Philadelphia’s 44-page pending appeal to the State Supreme Court on the issues of observers, city lawyers said the GOP representatives observing the counting could “see the entire set-up of the canvassing room” and could watch in detail every stage of the counting process."

A lawyer representing the Trump campaign also told a judge there have been representatives of the campaign who have observed the counting process.

After the president’s comments Thursday night, city solicitor Marcel Pratt said in a statement: "...Many representatives of the Trump campaign have been given access to the Convention Center throughout the entire day and since Tuesday, just like observers from other campaigns. The Board has set up a location from which candidates and party representatives, potentially in large numbers, can easily view the room without impeding the operation. "

Trump: “Paper on all of the windows so you can’t see in …”

The facts: There are windows papered over at the Convention Center along Arch Street, but it is unclear if these windows look into where counting is being conducted. Similar claims have arisen in Detroit. But Philadelphia’s city commissioners, a three-person board that supervises the election and includes one Republican, did set up a livestream that shows the counting process inside the building.

Trump: “The officials overseeing the counting in Pennsylvania, all part of a corrupt Democrat machine."

The facts: The counting of votes is run by the commonwealth’s counties, many of which are controlled by Republicans.

Trump: “In Pennsylvania, Democrats have gone to the State Supreme Court to try to ban our election observers very strongly. We won the case, but they’re going forward. They don’t want anybody watching them as they count the ballots.”

The facts: Philadelphia officials appealed a state court ruling granting Trump’s observers closer access to the city’s vote-counters, saying they have provided access that complies with state law and contains necessary precautions in light of the pandemic.

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, brought the same issue before a federal judge Thursday evening. The judge — who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush — rejected the campaign’s petition, but asked both campaigns and the city board of elections to reach an agreement over how many people would be allowed to observe the count, and how close they could be.

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