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Trump tweets about Arizona’s Senate race — and gets basic facts wrong

The president asks if there’s “call for a new election.” There isn’t.

Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Aboard Air Force One on his way to France for ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, President Trump is tweeting angrily about the ongoing vote tally in Arizona.

“SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH,” he tweeted in all caps, suggesting this represents “electoral corruption” (it doesn’t) and might require a “new election” (it won’t, and he couldn’t order one anyway — that’s a job for the courts).

Arizona is a state where thousands of residents vote by mail (as of Wednesday, there were still 600,000 mail-in ballots to be counted), which takes much longer to tabulate, as each vote must be verified either by determining whether the signatures on the ballots match those already on file or by calling the voter.

In his tweet, Trump appears to have been referring to a Fox News segment referencing a lawsuit filed by the Arizona GOP over the counting of mail-in ballots to determine whether the state will send Democrat Kyrsten Sinema or Republican Martha McSally to the United States Senate.

As my colleague Li Zhou explained yesterday, part of the lawsuit is about consistency in how the state matches signatures between ballots and voters, and whether voters should be called to verify their votes:

The Republican parties of four Arizona counties have filed a suit against the Arizona secretary of state and all county recorders over how mail-in votes are verified, the Hill reports.

The GOP plaintiffs argue that various counties are verifying votes differently and note that the process should be more consistent. Some counties call voters after Election Day to verify their ballots, while others don’t, they say. They’re asking for an injunction so that all ballots verified after Election Day can be omitted from any final vote tally — and they’re specifically calling out multiple counties that are seen as Sinema strongholds. But late Thursday night, a federal judge rejected the lawsuit, allowing the count to move forward.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes told the Arizona Republic that this kind of post-Election Day timing on verification is commonplace and not quite the anomaly that Republicans have framed it to be. It’s not apparent how many votes would be withheld if a judge sides with the Republicans, but it’s likely to affect places that have been more left-leaning in the past.

The lawsuit, which essentially seeks to stop Arizona from counting votes verified after Election Day, has already stirred up controversy — Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, tweeted at the Arizona GOP that she had voted by mail (as do the majority of Arizona voters) and was “under the impression my vote always counted.”

During the segment Trump watched, which took place during an episode of Shepard Smith Reporting on Fox News, a Fox News reporter said that the Arizona GOP was focused on the handling of ballots where the signatures didn’t match. And that’s the basis of Trump’s tweet.

But there’s no evidence of “electoral corruption” — the lawsuit is over how mail-in ballots are verified, and whether the same process that two counties — Maricopa and Pima — are using to verify ballots should be used statewide.

Second, the president of the United States cannot order a state to hold a new election (that would be a job for the courts, even in a presidential election).

Third, as the Associated Press’s Nick Riccardi pointed out, Trump’s concerns seem to have been heightened by Democratic candidate Sinema pulling ahead in the current count — not by a deep commitment to electoral integrity.

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