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“This is not going to end well”

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President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, in Cleveland, Ohio. Julio Cortez/AP

President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden clashed Tuesday on the legitimacy of election results, with the President continuing blatant efforts to foster mistrust in mail-in ballots on the debate stage. Trump baselessly cast doubt on the outcome and Biden said he would abide by independent certification of the results.

Asked what they were prepared to do to reassure the American people that the next president will be the legitimate winner, the opponents offered starkly different responses.

Biden noted remarks from Trump’s acting Homeland Security Sec. Chad Wolf and FBI director Christopher Wray, asserting that “there is no evidence at all that mail-in ballots are a source of being manipulated and cheating.”

“This is all about trying to dissuade people from voting because he’s trying to scare people into thinking that it’s not going to be legitimate. Show up and vote. You will determine the outcome of this election. Vote, vote, vote,” Biden said.

In his response, Trump initially invoked his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, before going on to sow doubt in the 2020 results, calling ballots “a disaster,” drawing a distinction, as he often does, between solicited ballots, which he said are “okay,” and unsolicited ballots.

But voting-by-mail rarely results in fraud. And although Trump has tried to spin the two as fundamentally different before, absentee and mail-in voting are essentially the same, both subject to several degrees of verification. 

“They’re sending millions of ballots all over the country. There’s fraud. They found them in creeks, they found some with the name Trump – just the other day in a wastepaper basket. They’re being sent all over the place,” Trump said, without evidence, later claiming that Virginia mailmen are “selling the ballots” and other ballots are being “dumped in rivers.”

“This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen,” Trump said. “This is a horrible thing for our country. This is not going to end well.”

Some context: Trump’s insistence that an increase in mail-in voting this November will result in massive fraud is unfounded. 

While rare instances of voter fraud from mail-in ballots do occur, it is nowhere near a widespread problem in the US election system.

Mail ballot fraud is exceedingly rare in part because states have systems and processes in place to prevent forgery, theft and voter fraud. These systems would apply to both absentee ballots and mail-in ballots for in-state voters.

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