The claim: Washington state had 590,000 ‘excess votes’ in the 2020 election
Seth Keshel, a former Army captain who has spread unfounded claims of election fraud in the past, described Washington state as having the “most fraudulent election” that year in a Nov. 1 Telegram post that was viewed more than 20,000 times in three days.
“With 590,000 excess votes spread over 12 electors, that comes out to 49,000+ fraudulent votes per elector,” reads Keshel’s post, which was included in a Nov. 1 Instagram post that received more than 200 likes in one day.
But experts told USA TODAY the claim is baseless. Washington state’s general election results show fewer votes than registered voters, and there is no evidence those tallies were affected by fraud.
Similar claims about the 2020 presidential election have been repeatedly debunked.
USA TODAY reached out to Keshel and the social media user who shared the claim for comment.
State data shows higher number of voters than ballots in 2020 election
James Long, a political science professor at the University of Washington, told USA TODAY there is “no substance” to the claim.
He noted the post didn’t include its definition of “excess votes,” but that it could imply a higher number of recorded votes than registered voters.
He pointed to the state’s publicly available 2020 general election results to disprove the theory. In each of the state’s 39 counties, voter turnout was lower than the number of registered voters.
The state had a total of 4,892,871 registered voters and 4,115,585 ballots counted in the 2020 election, which is a turnout of 84.11%.
Long said the term could also be used to suggest that turnout number is “artificially inflated” or indicative of some kind of fraud. Such a claim hasn’t been proven in court or any other forum.
“The poster hasn’t, nor has anyone else,” Long said. “No judge has ruled that this is the case. It’s simply made up.”
Jacob Grumbach, a political science professor at the University of Washington, said past allegations of “excess votes” have made faulty conclusions by using an incorrect denominator, conflating the percent of registered voters and the percent of eligible voters.
“The main takeaway is that elections administered by Washington state are highly secure and voter fraud is extraordinarily rare,” he said.
Derrick Nunnally, the deputy director of external affairs for the Washington secretary of state, said Keshel’s assertion should be “disregarded as fictitious” given the “absence of any supporting evidence or credibility.”
Voter fraud claims, lawsuits repeatedly debunked and dismissed
Keshel has previously spread false claims about the 2020 election.
USA TODAY debunked Keshel’s claim in 2021 that “excess votes” were to blame for seven states being wrongly awarded to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
Lawsuits filed by former President Donald Trump and his allies challenging the results of the 2020 election have been dismissed by numerous states and the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2020, former Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would affect the election outcome.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim Washington state had 590,000 “excess votes” in the 2020 election. There is no proof of any “excess votes” in Washington due to fraud, much less 590,000. Experts told USA TODAY the state’s election process is highly secure and accurate. The state’s general election results show fewer votes than registered voters in each of its counties, and there is no evidence that the data was affected by fraud.
Our fact-check sources:
- Derrick Nunnally, Nov. 3, Email to USA TODAY
- Jacob Grumbach, Nov. 3, Email to USA TODAY
- James Long, Nov. 3, Email to USA TODAY
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Aug. 30, 2021, No evidence for systematic voter fraud: A guide to statistical claims about the 2020 election
- USA TODAY, Aug. 10, 2021, Fact check: No evidence of 8 million ‘excess’ Biden votes from 2020 election
- The Associated Press, Aug. 4, 2021, Report claiming ‘excess’ Biden votes doesn’t show fraud
- Washington Secretary of State Elections Division, Feb. 3, 2021, November 3, 2020 General Election Results
- Stanford University, Oct. 27, 2020, Are Dead People Voting By Mail? Evidence From Washington State Administrative Records
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