The Cities Central to Fraud Conspiracy Theories Didn’t Cost Trump the ElectionBreaking News
tags: urban history, Donald Trump, 2020 Election
In Pennsylvania, much of President Trump’s attention since the election has focused on Philadelphia, where he has baselessly insisted there is a “mountain of corruption.” In Michigan, litigation by Mr. Trump’s campaign has concentrated on Detroit, where Republican poll watchers say they felt intimidated by election workers in Black Lives Matter apparel. And in Wisconsin, legal challenges and rumors have circled around Milwaukee, where one internet conspiracy theory turns on a briefly misplaced flash drive of election results.
That these three cities would become the chief sites of Republican claims of fraud in this election is unsurprising. All three are heavily Democratic. They have large African-American populations. And in their respective states, they have long been targets of racialized charges of corruption.
But in one revealing way, the fixation this year is misplaced. All three cities voted pretty much the same way they did in 2016. Turnout barely budged, relative to other areas in these states. Joseph R. Biden Jr. saw no remarkable surge in support — certainly nothing that would bolster claims of ballot stuffing or tampered vote tallies. Mr. Trump even picked up marginally more votes this year in all three cities than he did four years ago.
Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit, in other words, were not decisive in explaining why the Northern battleground states flipped from Mr. Trump four years ago to Mr. Biden in 2020. Voters outside of these cities made the difference.
Part of what makes these cities perennial targets is their size, said Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University. Because of that, they’re slower to count ballots, feeding suspicions about late-changing results. And if a campaign is looking to narrow vote margins through litigation, it makes more sense to go after the county with half a million voters than one with only a few hundred.
But Professor Gillespie said the racial implications of these fraud claims would not be lost on African-American voters.
“In one minute, he’s talking about how he’s the greatest president for Black people since Abraham Lincoln, which is historically inaccurate,” she said. “And then in the next breath, you now are trying to disqualify voters in cities with large Black populations, in ways that look like disenfranchisement and voter suppression.”
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