AP Fact Check: Trump’s Errant Views on Voting, Biden Miscues

President Donald Trump takes questions as he speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has been putting forth convoluted guidance to his supporters on submitting double votes in the November election, an act that would be illegal and risk public safety in the pandemic.

In a week filled with fabrication, half-truths and misrepresentation, he also wrongly took full credit for veterans improvements that were underway before he took office.

He said he never called John McCain a loser — he did — and also distorted events in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Democratic rival Joe Biden falsely claimed to have been the first person to have called for the use of emergency production powers in the pandemic, and he tried to shed light on the history of the incandescent bulb, but was a bit hazy.


A look at recent claims and reality:

November Election

TRUMP: “So you sign your ballot and mail it in, just mail it … On election day or early voting, go to your polling place, even though you’ve mailed it in, go to your polling place to see whether or not your mail-in vote has been tabulated or counted. … So if it hasn’t been counted, if it doesn’t show up, go and vote. And then if your mail-in ballot arrives after you vote, which it shouldn’t, but possibly it could, perhaps. That ballot will not be used … So send it in and then see, and then vote, and let’s see what happens.” — North Carolina tele-rally on Friday.

TRUMP: “Send in your ballots, send them in strong … And you send them in, but you go to vote. If they haven’t counted it, you can vote.” — interview Wednesday with WECT TV6 in Wilmington, North Carolina.

THE FACTS: To be clear, it is illegal in all 50 states and under federal law to vote twice in an election.

Election officials also advise people against heading to the polls to check on their mail-in ballots and then attempting to cast another ballot if there isn’t full verification, saying it will cause unnecessary chaos, long waits and health dangers in the pandemic.

Contrary to what Trump suggests, information on whether a ballot has been counted is typically not available right away. In several states, absentee ballots aren’t even counted until after polls close. What can be checked is whether an absentee ballot has been received, and in some cases, whether it has passed a security review and will be submitted for counting.

A flood of voters showing up on Nov. 3 to check the status of their ballots would mean even more disruption, election officials say.

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said the board “strongly discourages” people from following the president’s guidance. “That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19,” she said in a statement.

Brinson Bell added: “Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so also is a violation of North Carolina law.”

Many states offer ways for voters to verify the status of their ballot online that provide information on when an absentee ballot request has been received, when a ballot has been sent, when the ballot has been received by a local election office and whether it has passed the security review and been accepted. These are typically available on the website of the state election board or the secretary of state.

Voters in the few states that don’t provide this information online have the option to call their local election office.

TRUMP: “Also, I never called John a loser and swear on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on, that I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: He called McCain a loser.

In addition, The Associated Press has confirmed many of the comments Trump was reported by The Atlantic to have made disparaging fallen or captured U.S. service members, such as his description of the American dead in a military graveyard as “losers.”

As for McCain, Trump told a conservative forum in Iowa in 2015 that his view of McCain changed when McCain lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama. “He lost, so I never liked him as much after that, ’cause I don’t like losers,” he said. Trump went on to dismiss McCain’s war service: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

Trump in 2015 also tweeted a news article on Twitter calling McCain a “loser.”

The Wall

TRUMP, claiming Biden wants to “eliminate America’s borders”: “He wants to tear down the wall — he actually suggested tearing down the wall that we fought so hard to get built.” — North Carolina tele-rally on Friday.

THE FACTS: That’s false.

Biden’s immigration plan does not include money for new border fencing, and he and his campaign task force on immigration aren’t calling for any new walls. But neither has proposed taking down existing barriers.

Asked specifically by NPR last month if he would tear down the wall, Biden said: “No. There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration, No. 1.”

“No. 2 … I’m going to make sure that we have border protection, but it’s going to be based on making sure that we use high-tech capacity to deal with it and at the ports of entry. That’s where all bad stuff is happening.”


BIDEN: “When it got up to March, I kept saying, ‘Look, you’ve got to invoke,’ and you remember, I think I was the first — I may be mistaken — person calling for the Defense Production Act.” — comment after a news conference Wednesday.

THE FACTS: He is correct about being mistaken.

Biden issued a statement March 18 saying he was issuing a call for Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to give priority to “and immediately increase domestic production of any critical medical equipment required to respond to this crisis — such as the production of ventilators and associated training to operate.” His call came the same day Trump signed an order to use his authority under the act.

Five days earlier a group of Democrats in Congress wrote to Trump asking him to use powers under the act, a step that Trump officials and others had been discussing publicly for several weeks.

Light Bulb

BIDEN: “Why in God’s name don’t we teach history in history classes? A Black man invented the light bulb, not a white guy named Edison.” — in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Thursday.

THE FACTS: Biden is shading the actual story a bit. Thomas Edison invented the incandescent electric light bulb, but it burned out quickly. It was Lewis Latimer, an African American inventor who worked with Alexander Bell and later with Edison, who made light bulbs practical to use. Latimer created a light bulb with a durable carbon filament and sold the patent to the U.S. Electric Co. in 1881.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Although today’s light bulbs use filaments of tungsten, which lasts even longer than carbon, Latimer will always be remembered for making the widespread use of electric light possible, in public and at home.” Latimer is a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.


BIDEN: “Donald Trump may be the only president in modern history to leave office with fewer jobs than when he took office.” — Wilmington, Delaware, speech Friday.

THE FACTS: Maybe yes, maybe no.


Not since Depression-era Herbert Hoover has a president left office with a record of fewer jobs than when he began.

This could happen to Trump because of the pandemic, but he could also end up with a small gain.

In August there were 4.7 million fewer jobs than there were when Trump was inaugurated in January 2017. But if he leaves office in five months, and if the economy adds more than 1 million jobs each month, as happened in July and August, he could end up in the black. There are signs, though, that the gains are slowing as businesses have recalled many of the workers who were temporarily laid off from restaurants, bars, retailers and other businesses. So Biden’s prediction could come true.