Because the Electoral College ultimately determines the presidency, the race was decided by a few battleground states. Many of those states conducted recounts or thorough reviews of the results, all of which confirmed Biden’s victory.
In Georgia, where Trump was recently indicted for his efforts to overturn the 2020 result there, state officials led by both a Republican governor and secretary of state recertified Biden’s win after conducting three statewide counts. The final official recount narrowed Biden’s victory in the state from just shy of 13,000 votes to just shy of 12,000 votes.
In Nevada, the then-secretary of state, Republican Barbara Cegavske, and her office reviewed tens of thousands of allegations of possible voter fraud identified by the Nevada Republican Party but found that almost all were based on incomplete information and a lack of understanding of the state’s voting and registration procedures. For example, Cegavske’s investigation found that of 1,506 alleged instances of ballots being cast in the name of deceased individuals, only 10 warranted further investigation by law enforcement. Similarly, 10 out of 1,778 allegations of double-voting called for further investigation. Biden won Nevada by 33,596 votes, or 2.4 percentage points.
In Pennsylvania, the final certified results had Biden with an 80,555-vote margin over Trump, or 1.2 percentage points. Efforts to overturn Pennsylvania’s election failed in state and federal courts, while no prosecutor, judge or election official in Pennsylvania has raised a concern about widespread fraud. State Republicans continue to attempt their own review of the 2020 results, but that effort has been tied up in the courts and Democrats have called it a “partisan fishing expedition.”
The review of ballots and records from more than 300 local elections offices found that almost every instance of voter fraud was committed by individuals acting alone and not the result of a massive, coordinated conspiracy to rig the election. The cases involved both registered Democrats and Republicans, and the culprits were almost always caught before the fraudulent ballot was counted.
Some of the cases appeared to be intentional attempts to commit fraud, while others seemed to involve either administrative error or voter confusion, including the case of one Wisconsin man who cast a ballot for Trump but said he was unaware that he was ineligible to vote because he was on parole for a felony conviction.
The AP review also produced no evidence to support Trump’s claims that states tabulated more votes than there are registered voters.
Biden won Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and their 79 Electoral College votes by a combined 311,257 votes out of 25.5 million ballots cast. The disputed ballots represent just 0.15% of his victory margin in those states.
TRUMP’S OWN ADMINISTRATION FOUND NO WIDESPREAD FRAUD
Trump was repeatedly advised by members of his own administration that there was no evidence of widespread fraud.
Less than three weeks later, then-Attorney General William Barr declared that a Justice Department investigation had not uncovered evidence of the widespread voter fraud that Trump had claimed was at the center of a massive conspiracy to steal the election. Barr, who had directed U.S. attorneys and FBI agents across the country to pursue “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, said, “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
One of them, U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, was on a federal panel that declined a request to stop Pennsylvania from certifying its results, saying, “Voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”
CONSPIRACY THEORIES ABOUT VOTING MACHINES WERE UNFOUNDED
Many of the claims Trump and his team advanced about a stolen election dealt with the equipment voters used to cast their ballots.
At various times, Trump and his legal team falsely alleged that voting machines were built in Venezuela at the direction of President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013; that machines were designed to delete or flip votes cast for Trump; and that the U.S. Army had seized a computer server in Germany that held secrets to U.S. voting irregularities.
Nonetheless, many of these and other unfounded claims were repeated on Fox News, both by members of the Trump team as well as by some of the network’s on-air personalities. Dominion Voting Systems sued the network for $1.6 billion, claiming the outlet’s airing of these allegations amounted to defamation.
Records of internal communications at Fox News unearthed in the case showed that the network aired the claims even though its biggest stars, including Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, as well as the company’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, did not believe they were true.
Then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told the Jan. 6 House committee that he personally reviewed the video purported to show the fraud allegation in question. He recounted telling Trump: “It wasn’t a suitcase. It was a bin. That’s what they use when they’re counting ballots. It’s benign.”
State and county officials also had confirmed the containers were regular ballot containers on wheels, which are used in normal ballot processing.
But a week later, Trump publicly repeated the suitcase theory, saying, “There is even security camera footage from Georgia that shows officials telling poll watchers to leave the room before pulling suitcases of ballots out from under the tables and continuing to count for hours.”
Richard Donoghue, the former acting deputy attorney general, told the Jan. 6 committee that, days later, he told Trump that “these allegations about ballots being smuggled in in a suitcase and run through the machine several times, it was not true. … We looked at the video, we interviewed the witnesses.” But Trump continued to repeat the false claim.
Another debunked claim spinning a tale of 2,000 so-called ballot mules was featured in a film that ran in hundreds of theaters last spring. The film alleges that Democrat-aligned individuals were paid to illegally collect and drop ballots in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. But the AP determined that the allegations were based on flawed analysis of cellphone location data and drop box surveillance footage.
Associated Press writers Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin; Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta; Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Ali Swenson in New York contributed to this report.