On Nov. 12, 2020, as U.S. President Donald Trump was desperately attempting to mount legal challenges to the validity of the Nov. 3 election that saw him lose reelection to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas tweeted a link to a New York Times article headlined “Thousands of Uncounted Votes Found a Week After Election in Puerto Rico” and offered it as “another example of why it is prudent to let the process run its course”:
Another example of why it is prudent to let the process run its course: Thousands of Uncounted Votes Found a Week After Election in Puerto Rico https://t.co/YYxMhNSAdi
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) November 12, 2020
However, that New York Times article was about uncounted votes cast for governor, legislators, and mayors across the island of Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory), not the U.S. presidential election. Although residents of Puerto Rico are considered citizens of the United States, they do not have voting representation in the United States Congress and thus are not entitled to cast votes for president (or, more specifically, to cast votes for presidential elections).
Plenty of Twitter critics jumped in to take Cornyn to task for seemingly not knowing that Puerto Rican citizens are ineligible to vote in presidential elections:
THAT WILL CERTAINLY AFFECT THE RESULTS OF THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION! THE RACE FOR PUERTO RICO'S ZERO ELECTORAL VOTES IS REALLY UP IN THE AIR!
— Eggymceggerson-Georgia, Request Your Mail Ballot? (@Eggymceggerson3) November 12, 2020
Most sitting US Senators should know that Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections. YET.
Why don't YOU know, Senator Cornhole?
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) November 12, 2020
However, although the Texas senator was quite obviously drawing a parallel between the discovery of some 200 boxes of uncounted ballots in Puerto Rico and contention over the counting of votes in states with very close margins in the U.S. presidential race (such as Arizona and Georgia), Cornyn didn’t actually write (incorrectly) that Biden’s apparent victory over Trump needed to wait on results from Puerto Rico.
One straightforward interpretation of Cornyn’s tweet was that if thousands of uncounted ballots could turn up in Puerto Rico, then the same thing could happen in one or more states (with much larger populations), so it’s prudent to wait a reasonable amount of time after a national election to ensure that all legally submitted ballots have been counted. Indeed, some social media users defended the senator by offering that interpretation of his tweet:
I'm not 100% certain but I think there's room for benefit of doubt.
For example, try reading the Tweet
from this angle & see if it could be interpreted another way:
"This is an example of why we should wait until it's all done.
Look what happened in PR's local elections."
— Gray Ghost (@Gray_GhostII) November 12, 2020
And later, Cornyn himself followed up to state to his critics that “neither the [New York Times] story or my comments are limited to presidential elections”:
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) November 13, 2020