Florida election conspiracy touted by Trump unravels into nothing

In November 2018, Trump was practically hysterical about alleged voter fraud in Florida. This week, his theories were exposed as nonsense.
Image: Florida polling station
Voters cast their ballots for the Florida presidential primary, in Bonita Springs, Fla. on March 17, 2020.Elise Amendola / AP file

For quite a while, Florida has been home to some very competitive statewide races, and the last election cycle was no exception. When the dust settled on Election Day on Nov. 6, 2018, the tallies were so close that it was not at all clear who'd prevailed in Florida's gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

Donald Trump, predictably, sought to take advantage of the uncertainty. Just two days after the polls closed, the president started alleging without proof that there was "fraud" and "big corruption" in Florida's elections. A day later, he lied about the discovery of "miraculous" votes, and vowed to dispatch lawyers to "expose the fraud" that did not exist in reality.

The day after that, while in France to recognize the 100th anniversary of World War I, Trump skipped an event intended to honor American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice -- the president blamed the cancellation on rain -- but he nevertheless made time to keep up his offensive against Florida's elections, publishing a tweet accusing Democrats of "trying to STEAL" the races.

Soon after, Trump raised the prospect of "forged" ballots in the Sunshine State, and condemned uncounted ballots as "infected."

A year and a half later, the president's claims have been exposed as total nonsense. Politico reported overnight:

A Trump election conspiracy theory has fallen apart after Florida's law enforcement agency said it had found no widespread voter fraud in the 2018 races for Senate and governor.... [N]either Trump's unnamed "lawyers" nor the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found evidence of a "big corruption scandal." The state took more than 17 months to wrap up its investigation Wednesday, and found none of the wrongdoing alleged by Trump and [then-Gov. Rick] Scott.

I don't imagine anyone will find these results especially surprising. It was obvious to most observers at the time that the president was peddling transparent nonsense, which he appeared to be making up as he went along. By all appearances, Trump simply made up a voting-fraud fantasy and presented it to the public as if it were real -- indifferent to the pernicious effects of a president trying to undermine public confidence in his own country's electoral system.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement determined that Trump was wrong? The word "duh" keeps coming to mind.

But let's not miss the ongoing relevant context: this same president is now speaking with great confidence about his new "fraud" theories, many of which include condemnations of voting by mail -- a topic Trump struggles to understand.

The evaporation of his ridiculous claims in Florida should serve as a reminder: when it comes to the integrity of elections, the president doesn't have the foggiest idea what he's talking about.