Former US President Donald Trump claimed in a post on his social media platform that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the 2020 election was “rigged.” This is wrong; In early November 2022, the court ordered state officials to vote in the midterm elections scheduled for November 8.
“So the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just ruled that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, but you will let that result stand, but in future elections you are no longer allowed to do what was done in the 2020 election. ,” Trump said in a Nov. 3, 2022 post on Truth Social. “Is that fair or even legal?”
He added, “This decision represents far more votes than it would have taken to win Pennsylvania. What a scam!”
Screenshot of a Truth Social post taken on November 16, 2022
The post was shared thousands of times in the days leading up to Pennsylvania’s Midterm Races, which saw Democrat John Fetterman oust Republican Mehmet Oz, a Trump-backed prominent doctor, in the state’s hotly contested US Senate. Doug Mastriano, another Trump-backed Republican, also sank in Pennsylvania, losing the governor’s race to Democratic challenger Josh Shapiro.
Similar claims have been circulating on social media platforms and conservative websites since the days leading up to November 8 – including in Greek. They encompass the latest misinformation targeting Pennsylvania, a battleground state that President Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes in 2020.
“This claim is false,” Pennsylvania State Department communications director Amy Gulli said of Trump’s post. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not rule that the 2020 presidential election was ‘rigged.'”
The state has banned the counting of certain ballots
On Nov. 1, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered county officials “not to count absentee ballots and mail-in ballots received for the November 8, 2022 general election that are contained in undated or misdated outer envelopes.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said in its ruling, “We hereby direct that the Pennsylvania District Electoral Board segregate and retain all ballots contained in undated or misdated envelopes.”
The case, which divided the court equally, was brought by the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the State Republican Party and individual voters. It came after a year-long legal battle over Pennsylvania’s dating requirements for absentee ballots — which Democrats disproportionately use.
According to the Pennsylvania State Department, voters must sign and date return envelopes with absentee ballot signatures in order for them to be counted. Postal ballots must also be received by 8pm (0100 GMT) on Election Day, with the exception of military and foreign voters.
“The court ruled that districts should not count undated ballots. You should put those aside,” said John Kincaid, a government professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
However, the Supreme Court ruling caused confusion among local election officials, who were unsure how to determine what constitutes an “incorrectly dated” ballot, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Thus, on November 5, the Supreme Court issued a supplementary order:
"For purposes of the November 8, 2022 general election, 'incorrectly dated outer envelopes' are as follows: (1) mail-in ballot outer envelopes with dates that fall outside the date range of September 19, 2022, through November 8, 2022; and (2) absentee ballot outer envelopes with dates that fall outside the date range of August 30, 2022, through November 8, 2022."
This differs from how absentee ballots were counted in Pennsylvania during the 2020 presidential election, when votes received after the deadline were still counted.
“In 2020, the Supreme Court (Pennsylvania) ruled that this date requirement could not be enforced in that year’s election, but would be enforced in the future,” said Michael Dimino, professor and voting law expert at Widener University.
Discounting undated or misdated ballots in 2020 is unlikely to have filled the vote gap between Trump and Biden in Pennsylvania.
For example, Philadelphia — the state’s most populous city and a Democratic stronghold — counted about 8,300 undated ballots out of about 381,000 votes cast in the mail during the election, according to media reports.
The verdict does not prove any wrongdoing
While Dimino said Trump has “a point” regarding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s about-face on mail-in voting requirements for the midterm elections, there is no evidence that the 2020 general election was “rigged.”
Of the nearly 7,000,000 ballots cast in Pennsylvania for the presidential race, there were four confirmed cases of mail-in ballot fraud, according to a database maintained by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
In a February 2021 press release, the Pennsylvania Secretary of State said the results of a statewide audit — which examined ballots in 63 out of 67 counties — “provided strong evidence for the accuracy of the counting of votes cast in the November 2020 presidential election.”
“The results of the sample reflected the reported results of the presidential elections in the participating counties within a fraction of a percentage point,” the press release said.
Courts rejected dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies to contest the outcome of the 2020 election in several battleground states – including Pennsylvania. Officials from both parties, including Trump’s own Attorney General William Barr, have repeatedly denied claims of widespread fraud.
The US Agency for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security said in a November 2020 statement that the general election was “the safest in American history.”
AFP has fact-checked more false and misleading claims about the midterm elections here.