The California recall election results have not yet been tabulated or released to the public — yet the leading Republican challenger in the race has already pushed discredited and errant claims of fraud in the election, disputing a loss that hasn’t even officially happened yet.
The latest aggregate of polling data compiled by FiveThirtyEight shows that current Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is in a good place heading into recall election day, with the average of polls showing 57 percent of voters currently want him to retain his position in office. Less than 42 percent of voters support his removal.
Republican candidate Larry Elder, whom many see as the leading GOP choice to replace Newsom should he lose the confidence of voters in the recall, has so far refused to say whether he will accept the election results. Elder’s campaign, however, is already prognosticating his loss — and without evidence of any kind, they are blaming fraud for Newsom’s win.
A website that is paid for by Elder’s campaign, which was published on Monday, is soliciting his supporters to sign their name to a petition demanding that the California state legislature open an investigation to “ameliorate the twisted results” of the election — results that have not yet been tallied.
“We trust in our elected officials to safeguard that ballot box, such that its results will truly reflect our will as Californian’s [sic],” the website states. “However, when those officials, either through laziness or incompetence, allow thieves to steal amidst the dead of night and cheat our ballot box, we can no longer rely on its contents.”
Beyond the claims of fraud being made prematurely, the site claims that a statistical theory called Benford’s Law has “detected fraud in California resulting in Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor.” However, a bevy of fact-checking articles from last year, prompted by former President Donald Trump’s supporters making similar claims, shows that Benford’s Law itself isn’t a reliable method to prove fraud.
The analysis “is only a Red Flag test, that can raise doubts,” said Theodore P. Hill, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Georgia Tech, to Reuters last year.
“The IRS has been using it for decades to ferret out fraudsters, but only by identifying suspicious entries, at which time they put the auditors to work on the hard evidence,” Hill added. “Whether or not a dataset follows BL proves nothing.”
Even the author of a paper that suggested Benford’s Law could be used in electoral races to root out fraud stressed there were significant limitations to relying on it.
A deviation from Benford’s Law “on its own should not be considered proof either that election fraud has occurred or that an election was clean,” wrote Walter Mebane, a professor of political science and statistical analysis at the University of Michigan, in 2006.
The Elder campaign’s insistence that fraud resulted in his loss one day before election results were even published comes nearly a week after Trump inserted himself in the recall race, making similar unsubstantiated claims.
In an interview with Newsmax, Trump said, without proof, that mail-in voting, which was used prominently in his own election loss, would secure Newsom’s win (and Elder’s loss) in the California recall election.
“The one thing they’re good at is rigging elections,” Trump said of Democrats, offering no proof of any kind to validate his claims.