One of the many claims U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters made in flailing attempts to reverse Trump’s defeat by Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the 2020 general election was the assertion that furtive late-night “dumps” of illicit ballots had taken place, which wiped out large Trump leads and gave Biden wins in key battleground states:
“@RandPaul wants an explanation on WHY Trump's "defeat" happened in FOUR DATA DUMPS between 1:34 am & 6:31 am.
We all know Trump won this election.
— TRUMP IS STILL OUR PRESIDENT (@9NEWSNANCY) November 30, 2020
Not only did the “data dumps” have nothing fraudulent about them, but they were in fact predictable and had been anticipated well in advance of the election.
As we discussed in a separate article, heavy use of mail-in ballots was expected in the election due to the COVID-19 pandemic that made in-person voting risky. Many pre-election discussions noted that the increased use of mail-in ballots could misleadingly skew the early reporting of election results towards one candidate or the other in some states, depending on when those states tabulated their mail-in ballots:
Even once the early and in-person ballots are counted, a significant number of votes could still be outstanding. Only nine states expect to have at least 98 percent of unofficial results reported by noon the day after the election.
The order in which different types of votes are reported could also make one party look stronger at various points in the night. Democrats are more likely to vote by mail this year, so in states where those will be the first type of ballots released, like Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, initial results could skew in favor of Joseph R. Biden Jr. Places that report in-person Election Day votes first, like most parts of Virginia, will probably look better for President Trump.
But the initial skew in a state’s results may last only a short while, and it will be influenced by which counties or precincts in the state are the fastest to report …
Moreover, this phenomenon was precisely expected to take place in states that were not allowed (by their own laws) to begin counting mail-in ballots as they were received, but instead had to wait until Election Day or just beforehand — particularly in the key states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, whose results Trump most vociferously disputed:
Voters are casting ballots early in record numbers this year amid the pandemic — and that’s prompting concerns that it might wind up taking longer than expected to get election results, as officials process millions more mail-in ballots than usual.
The reality is that most states can begin processing absentee ballots in some form before Election Day, which could help avoid delays in reporting results.
But in three critical battleground states — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — officials aren’t allowed to start processing early ballots until on or just before Election Day itself, which could delay not just their state results but also, if the Electoral College count is close, potentially leave the whole presidential race up in the air.
The “vote spikes” that Trump and his supporters maintain are indicative of election fraud were merely an unsurprising combination of mail-in ballots (which were more heavily used by Democrats) and ballots from areas that vote heavily Democratic. That Trump may have held a lead in early returns reported from these states is irrelevant, akin to claiming that the score at halftime in a football game is more significant than the final result.
In terms of conspiracy theory, this claim runs afoul of some major plot holes, including that:
1) It posits that forces working in favor of Democratic candidate Biden were sufficiently powerful, knowledgeable, and widespread to overturn the legitimate election results, yet they couldn’t manage to do so in a manner that wasn’t clumsy and blatantly obvious.
2) It posits that these nefarious operators somehow were able to pull off in 2020 the very thing they had been completely unable to achieve in 2016, when Trump secured the election over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by winning the very same three states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan) by relatively narrow margins.