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Rubio Spreads Debunked 2020 Election Fraud Claims

In a May 19 interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Sen. Marco Rubio made misleading and unsubstantiated claims about election fraud in states lost by then-President Donald Trump in 2020:

  • Rubio said “liberal groups” in Georgia “were paying people $10 per vote.” A conservative group made this claim in November 2021, but failed to provide evidence to state investigators.
  • The Florida senator claimed there were “over 500 illegal drop box locations” in Wisconsin. He apparently is referring to a state Supreme Court ruling in 2022 that said state law doesn’t allow for ballot drop boxes, but there was no evidence of fraud.
  • Rubio said “200,000 ballots” in Arizona had “signatures [that] didn’t match.” This allegation has been made about Maricopa County, but a state investigation found no improper procedures, no criminality and no fraud in the county’s signature-verification process.

Rubio, who is reportedly under consideration as Trump’s possible vice presidential running mate, brought up discredited claims of election fraud in the 2020 election during a lengthy exchange with “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker. After Rubio said he might not accept the results of the 2024 election, Welker played a clip of the senator on Jan. 6, 2021, saying, “Democracy is held together by people’s confidence in the election and their willingness to abide by its results.”

“So by your own definition, are Donald Trump’s claims undermining Americans’ confidence in democracy?” Welker said, referring to Trump’s repeated false claims that Democrats stole the 2020 election.

In response, Rubio said, in part: “I think what undermines people’s confidence in the election is when you have places like Wisconsin with over 500 illegal drop box locations, when you have places like Georgia where liberal groups were paying people $10 per vote.”

Let’s first take a look at the Georgia claim.


We asked Rubio’s office where the senator got the information about the $10 payments, but we received no response. However, True the Vote, a conservative organization, filed a complaint with Georgia election officials in late November 2021 claiming to have proof of a massive “ballot trafficking scheme.” The complaint identified the group’s unnamed source as “John Doe,” who claimed participants in this operation were paid “typically at a rate of $10 per ballot.”

Catherine Engelbrecht, a founder of True the Vote, spoke about the alleged scheme in the controversial film “2000 Mules,” which was produced by conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza. As we wrote in our article “Evidence Gaps in ‘2000 Mules,'” Engelbrecht said in the film that “mules” were paid “generally $10 a ballot” for each ballot that was collected from one of the unidentified nonprofit organizations and deposited in designated drop box locations. Engelbrecht said in the film that the information about the payments came from unnamed “people who shared information with us.”

In January 2022, the Georgia State Election Board launched an investigation into True the Vote’s claim, and issued a subpoena that asked True the Vote to produce, among other things, “witness interviews” and “contact information,” including for the John Doe. After True the Vote failed to provide the information, citing confidentiality agreements with its sources, the state board sued and obtained a court order to compel the group to comply.

In May 2023, True the Vote attempted to withdraw its complaint, which the election board chairman refused to accept. In December, the group responded to the court order by saying, “TTV does not have in its possession, custody, or control such identity and contact information.” True the Vote also acknowledged that it did not have confidentiality agreements that it previously cited as a reason for not complying with the subpoena.

The state board’s investigation, which is “all but officially ‘closed,'” has produced no evidence of ballot harvesting in Georgia, Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, told us in an email.

“It has uncovered zero evidence of the allegations made by True the Vote but did expose True The Vote as a mendacious and deceptive enterprise that it is untrustworthy and unable to provide a shred of evidence for a single one of their fairy-tale allegations,” Hassinger said. “Like all the lies about Georgia’s 2020 election, True The Vote’s fabricated claims of ballot harvesting have been repeatedly debunked, and anyone who repeats them … is either a willful dunce or a co-conspirator.”


As for Rubio’s claim that Wisconsin had “over 500 illegal drop box locations,” the senator appears to be referring to a 2022 state Supreme Court ruling that said state law does not authorize the use of ballot drop boxes.

Under state law, “absentee ballots ‘shall be mailed by the elector, or delivered in person, to the municipal clerk issuing the ballot or ballots.’ The prepositional phrase ‘to the municipal clerk’ is key and must be given effect,” the court said in a 4-3 ruling. “An inanimate object, such as a ballot drop box, cannot be the municipal clerk.”

The ruling said Wisconsin used 528 ballot drop boxes in the 2020 general election — matching Rubio’s description of “over 500 illegal drop box locations” in the state.

But the existence of drop boxes in the 2020 election isn’t evidence of fraud.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Brian Hagedorn — a conservative who ruled against Trump in other 2020 election-related rulings — said the case wasn’t about fraud, but rather how to apply the law.

“The principal issue in this case involves the lawfulness of ballot drop boxes. This case is not about the risk of fraudulent votes being cast or inspiring confidence in elections,” Hagedorn wrote. “This case is about applying the law as written; that’s it.”

Hagedorn also urged the Legislature to address the issue of drop boxes.

“[T]he election law statutes we are asked to consider are by no means a model of clarity. Many of the controlling provisions were originally enacted over 100 years ago and have been layered over with numerous amendments since,” he wrote. “Significant questions remain despite our decision in this case, especially as absentee voting has become increasingly common. Although our adjudication of this case will provide some assistance, the public is better served by clear statutes than by clear judicial opinions interpreting unclear statutes.”


In the interview, Rubio cited Arizona as another example of why Americans are losing confidence in U.S. elections.

“They look at what happened in Arizona, 200,000 ballots that the signatures didn’t match,” he said. “People lose confidence.”

There is no evidence to support the senator’s claim that 200,000 signatures didn’t match in Arizona — let alone that those votes were fraudulent or that they were cast for Biden.

Again, the senator’s office did not respond to our questions about this and other statements he made on “Meet the Press.” However, state Republicans, including then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich, raised concerns about the signature-verification process in Maricopa County, which Biden narrowly won with 50% of the vote.

On April 6, 2022, Brnovich released an interim report on the 2020 election that questioned the county’s signature-verifying process, saying the process was “insufficient to guard against abuse.” As evidence, the report noted that the county received nearly 2 million early voting ballots in 2020, but relatively few ballots were rejected because of missing (1,455 ballots) or mismatched (587 ballots) signatures.

“We have reached the conclusion that the 2020 election in Maricopa County revealed serious vulnerabilities that must be addressed and raises questions about the 2020 election in Arizona,” the AG’s report, addressed to Senate President Karen Fann, said.

However, Brnovich’s own investigators found no improper procedures after reviewing the county’s signature-verification process, according to internal documents that weren’t released until after he left office.

Days before the report was released, the chief special agent in the AG’s Special Investigators Section sent an April 1, 2022, email to top officials in the AG’s office with the subject line “Additional Considerations for Draft Interim Report.” A marked-up copy of the draft report that was attached to the email said the Special Investigations Section, or SIS, found no evidence of fraud, noting that the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, or MCRO, followed its signature-verification process.

“(Investigators examined the policy and procedures followed by the MCRO relative to signature verification. SIS staff concluded the MCRO followed its policy/procedures as they relate to signature verification; we did not uncover any criminality or fraud having been committed in this area during the 2020 general election),” the marked-up version of the draft report said.

That observation by investigators was not included in the interim report that was released to the public by Brnovich. It wasn’t made public until February 2023 by his successor, Kris Mayes, a Democrat.

In a March 2022 interim report summary, which was also released by Mayes, the attorney general’s SIS staff explained the county’s signature-verification process: All mail-in and drop-box ballots in Maricopa County are scanned and then those images are “run through the Signature Verification Application,” where signatures on the ballots are compared with “historical reference signatures.” Ballots without signatures or those that cannot be electronically verified are then reviewed by county election staffers in a process called “curing.”

“No improper Election Procedures were discovered during the Signature Verification review,” the March 2022 summary said about the county’s process.

So, where did Rubio get his figure of 200,000 ballots with signatures that didn’t match? It likely came from a February 2022 “pilot study” funded by the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate. That study estimated “that more than 200,000 ballots with mismatched signatures in Maricopa were counted without being reviewed” for accuracy during the curing process — according to a report in Just the News.

The pilot study, which was done by a firm calling itself the Election Systems Integrity Institute, was based on 499 images of early voting mail ballot, or EVB, envelopes. The study compared signatures on the envelopes with signatures on public deeds.

But the pilot study didn’t claim that there were 200,000 fraudulent ballots. It said, “Based on this Study, over 204,430 early EVBs should have been cured vs. the 25,000 that the County actually cured; and, using the County’s 2.3% post-curing rate, 5,277 EVBs should have been disallowed.”

Even the 5,277 figure is an extrapolation based on this firm’s review of 499 signatures – a review that didn’t follow the same process as the county. And, as we said, state investigators reviewed the county’s signature-verification process in 2020 and found no improper procedures, no criminality and no fraud.

We’ve debunked many claims about fraud in the 2020 election, and once again, Rubio’s supposed examples don’t show evidence of any widespread illegality. In fact, his claims don’t show evidence of voter fraud at all.

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