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Fact check: Elise Stefanik tried to get election overturned, promoted election lies

House Republicans are moving to oust Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from a party leadership position over her vocal repudiation of former President Donald Trump’s lies about the integrity of the 2020 election.

The top candidate to replace Cheney is New York Rep. Elise Stefanik — who promoted some of those election lies and sought to get the outcome of the election overturned.

Stefanik, whom Trump endorsed Wednesday for the job of House Republican conference chair, supported a lawsuit that tried to get the Supreme Court to invalidate Joe Biden’s victory. On January 6, after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, she voted to reject some of President Joe Biden’s electoral votes.

Both before the riot and immediately afterward, Stefanik made false claims about the conduct of the election in some of the states Biden won. And in previous remarks, she amplified baseless claims that there were major “irregularities” with both voting and election software.

Stefanik did not match Trump’s incendiary language about the election being “rigged” or “stolen.” But using slightly more artful rhetoric, she aided his damaging campaign to undermine confidence in the result.

Here’s a look at some of Stefanik’s election-related words and actions between early December and early January. Her office declined to comment on the record for this article.

Endorsed lawsuit to overturn the election

In December, Stefanik was one of 126 House Republicans to sign on to an amicus brief in support of a Republican lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to toss out Biden’s win.

The unsuccessful lawsuit, which was filed by the attorney general of Texas, asked the court to reject the election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin, all of which were won by Biden.

Stefanik said at the time that she believed state officials had violated the Constitution by making changes to election processes without approval from state legislatures. She said in an interview on Newsmax that aired in December: “This lawsuit was not about overturning the election, it was about standing up for the Constitution and protecting the election integrity and election security.”

Whatever its rationale, the lawsuit did seek to overturn the election.

Voted to reject Biden electoral votes after Capitol riot

On January 6, Stefanik was one of 147 Republicans to vote against certifying Biden’s electoral votes from at least one state.

Earlier that day, prior to the storming of the Capitol, Stefanik had told constituents in an open letter that she planned to object to certifying Biden’s wins in all four of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. But after the violence, Republicans ended up holding final votes on the certification of only two states, Pennsylvania and Arizona; Stefanik voted to reject Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania but to certify Biden’s win in Arizona.

Endorsed baseless concerns about “voting irregularities”

In a video statement she posted on January 4, Stefanik said that “tens of millions of Americans are rightly concerned that the 2020 election featured unprecedented voting irregularities.” She also said these Americans are rightly concerned about “a fundamental lack of ballot integrity and ballot security.”

Stefanik’s wording here was crafty. Rather than declare herself that there were widespread irregularities and a lack of ballot integrity, she invoked other Americans’ concerns about widespread irregularities and a lack of ballot integrity. Nonetheless, she not only repeated these baseless concerns but groundlessly suggested Americans were correct to have them.

Alluded to false claims about Dominion

Trump and various allies falsely claimed that Trump votes were stolen by voting products created by the company Dominion Voting Systems. Stefanik did not go that far — but in a December 1 interview on Newsmax, she vaguely suggested that there were “irregularities” related to Dominion.

Given how close the election was in key states, Stefanik said, “we need to make sure that every vote is counted. But we also need to highlight any of the irregularities. I have concerns about the software, the fact that Dominion software …” She trailed off, then said both Democrats and Republicans have “raised issues” about “making sure that we have the integrity of the counting process.”

Stefanik didn’t explain her concerns about Dominion software, nor what “issues” she was claiming Democrats had raised. Regardless, there is no basis for claims that there were issues with the software’s “integrity” in the 2020 election.

“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” the Trump administration’s own election security officials from the Department of Homeland Security said in a November statement they issued along with other election security officials from outside the federal government.

Made false claim about votes in the Atlanta area

In the open letter on January 6, Stefanik wrote that, in Georgia, “more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased and otherwise unauthorized voters — in Fulton County alone.”

This is just false. Nearly two months before Stefanik’s letter was published, journalists had already debunked claims that there might have been 132,000 ineligible voters who cast ballots in Fulton County, which contains most of Atlanta. It’s not clear if Stefanik was referring to these same claims or to some other tale, but she was wrong regardless.

“The Georgia Secretary of State’s office knows the age of everyone who voted because they had to be registered in order to vote, and there were no underage voters,” Ari Schaffer, spokesman for Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, said in a Wednesday email to CNN. “Across the state, we found only 2 votes credited to dead voters. The suggestion that one fourth of all ballots cast in Fulton County in November were illegal is ludicrous.”

Made false claim about Georgia’s voter verification

In her January 6 speech to Congress, Stefanik claimed that Raffensperger “gutted signature matching for absentee ballots and, in essence, eliminated voter verification required by state election law.”

What counts as “gutted” is subjective, but Stefanik’s broader claim is clearly incorrect: Raffensperger did not get rid of signature matching for the 2020 election, much less eliminate “voter verification” more broadly — “in essence” or otherwise. Georgia’s absentee voters did have their signatures verified in the 2020 election, and its in-person voters had their photo identification verified. A subsequent audit found that the elections department in suburban Cobb County, which Biden won by about 14 percentage points, “had a 99.99% accuracy rate in performing correct signature verification procedures.”

Stefanik was likely referring to a March 2020 legal agreement Raffensperger endorsed to settle a Democratic lawsuit. The agreement said that at least three members of a county elections staff need to be involved in a decision to reject an absentee ballot over a signature matching issue. And it required that, if a rejection does occur, the voter must be quickly contacted so they have a chance to fix the problem.

Raffensperger wrote in a January 6 letter to Georgia members of Congress that the percentage of Georgia absentee ballots rejected for signature issues in 2020, 0.22%, was “actually slightly higher” than the 0.2% rate in the 2018 election, before the settlement agreement.

Stefanik is entitled to criticize the Georgia signature system; Georgia Republicans replaced it in 2021 with a non-signature ID system for verifying absentee voters. But she was incorrect when she suggested that Georgia did not verify voters at all in 2020.

Amplified baseless claim about ballots in Michigan

In the January 6 speech, Stefanik also amplified baseless allegations about ballot-counting in Michigan. She claimed, for example, that signed Michigan affidavits documented “unconstitutional irregularities” like “the illegal counting of late ballots.”

There is no evidence that Michigan counted ballots that arrived after the state receipt deadline of 8 p.m. on election night. Though some Republicans claimed that viral images showed someone bringing late-arriving ballots into a counting center in Detroit, those images actually showed a news photographer bringing in camera equipment.

The office of Democratic Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says on its website that 3,328 ballots were rejected in the state because they arrived after the 8 pm deadline. “Any ballot that arrived” after the deadline, “even if postmarked prior to Election Day, was not counted,” the office says.

Many of the Michigan affidavits cited by Trump’s legal team contained claims that were debunked, revealed a lack of understanding of how the counting process works, or did not even purport to describe fraud.

cnn

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