“DEAD PEOPLE VOTED”
They didn’t, actually, but outgoing President Donald Trump tweeted that anyway, two weeks after an election in which he received nearly 6 million fewer votes than his opponent, President-elect Joe Biden.
His declaration – an evidence-free claim that was flagged by Twitter as misleading – was just one of many salvos fired in the electoral faceoff he and others have waged since voting ended on Nov. 3.
The sides are well known: Trump and many of his supporters insist the 2020 election was rife with fraud; Biden and his supporters – and a small but growing number of non-supporters – insist the opposite.
Factually, it’s not been a balanced fight so far.
Claims on the Trump side – that there were significant numbers of votes cast illegally, or that the vote counters are craven, or both – have been rejected in every court where Trump’s legal team has tried to make a case.
Claims by those who believe in the legitimacy of this year’s vote – which drew record turnout and mixed results for Democrats and Republicans up and down the ballot – are backed by the vote counts and voting officials from both parties, international election observers and, among others, Trump appointees at the Department of Homeland Security.
But the post-vote dispute is much about passion as reality. And it’s possible this fight, or others like it, will continue long after Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.
So we asked elected officials from around Southern California – men and women who figure to be players in any protracted argument over the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency – where they stand on a simple two-part question:
Was the 2020 election fair? Why or why not?
Some Southern California Republicans offered answers that suggest they are close to accepting the results. even if they’re not thrilled by them.
Congressman Ken Calvert, from Corona, wrote this: “ … Overall, I believe the election was fair, but any time you change the rules while an election is underway – as we saw in many states due to the pandemic – there will inevitably be legal challenges, which our courts will ultimately resolve…
“At the end of the day, the winner of our presidential election isn’t determined by candidates, political parties, or the media, it’s determined by the certification of results by states and those results are then reflected by the Electoral College vote. I will certainly respect that outcome.”
And Lance Trover, the campaign manager for incoming Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Seal Beach, wrote this:
“Congresswoman-elect (Michelle) Steel supports the will of the voters, wants all legal votes counted, and recognizes that, where appropriate, recounts are sometimes needed. She has faith in our system of government and knows that on January 20th at noon we will have a President sworn into office.”
Other Republicans are more openly partisan.
“President Trump – I stand with you, just as you have stood with me from 2016 until today,” wrote incoming Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from Vista who recently won the race for the 50th congressional district, which includes the Temecula area.
“The fact that poll watchers are not being allowed to adequately supervise certain recounts is completely unacceptable. This is America. Election integrity comes first.”
And some have directly echoed Trump.
“We all see it. We all know what you’re doing,” tweeted State Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, on Nov. 4, apparently sending her message to Democrats who support Biden. “We are not going to let you cheat and steal this election. See you in court.”
Later that day, Melendez tweeted: “Al Gore dragged the election out until mid December but Trump is supposed to just give up the day after? I don’t think so.”
Another Republican – 37th District State Sen. John Moorlach, of Costa Mesa – claimed without evidence that fraud might have played a role in his loss to Democrat Dave Min.
Moorlach, after the election, wrote in his blog that “the unknown ‘X Factor’ in the mix is the amount of actual voter fraud,” referencing anecdotal accounts of voters who said they received two ballots or showed their votes recorded on the wrong day.
“When there is smoke there’s usually fire.”
But when pressed, Moorlach said he trusts O.C. Registrar Neal Kelley, and said he now doesn’t want to imply that there was voter fraud in Orange County or that it triggered his 12,000-vote loss to Min. Instead, he suggested he was hurt by Republicans moving out of California. Moorlach is now running for the Second District county supervisor seat vacated by Steel.
Most local Democrats pointed out the 2020 election accurately reflected a simple reality, which is that Biden won more votes – in the popular vote and the Electoral College – than Trump.
“Yes, the 2020 election was fair. That’s an indisputable fact. Every eligible ballot is being counted, and there is no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities affecting the outcomes,” wrote Rep. Mike Levin, a Democrat from San Juan Capistrano.
“It was absolutely fair,” wrote Rep. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach.
Others echoed those sentiments, while also expressing frustration with the pushback against the election.
“Not only was this election free and fair, but given the backdrop of the worst pandemic in a century, it was a triumph of democracy with more Californians and Americans voting than ever. That’s cause for celebration whether you’re a Democrat or Republican,” wrote Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from Burbank.
“But what has happened since, with Trump, congressional Republicans and fringe right-wing online media purposefully sowing doubt about the outcome, has been nothing short of a disgrace.”
Judy Chu, a Democrat from Pasadena, agrees.
“The 2020 election was proven to be free and fair,” Chu wrote. “Any assertion to the contrary plays right into the hands of those who seek to see our democracy undermined.
Former Rep. Gil Cisneros, a Democrat who lost his reelection bid to represent the 39th congressional district, didn’t question the election’s legitimacy even if he didn’t like the result.
“Yes, the 2020 election was fair,” Cisneros wrote. “It’s irresponsible and reckless for the President and Republican leaders to sow doubt and undermine the integrity of our elections.”
Other Democrats said the vote produced a result they view as fair, but they question rules that minimize the political power of California residents or emphasize the power of the wealthy.
“I believe that the 2020 election was fair, consistent with our laws. … Certain unfairnesses have been built into our law for generations. The Electoral College should be abolished as it discriminates against residents of large states,” wrote Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from Sherman Oaks.
Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from Irvine, wrote this: “While we can do more work at the national level to restore the Voting Rights Act and get dark money out of politics, I believe the 2020 election was fair.
“Our democracy requires that we accept the election results regardless of who wins,” she added. “Joe Biden is our President Elect.”