2021 california recall election

Larry Elder Campaign Concedes Defeat and Claims Fraud – Before Election Day

Elder jumps the gun. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

It was widely expected that if and when California Gavin Newsom survived a recall attempt after voting ends on September 14, Republicans would allege voter fraud on vague or non-existent grounds. Their lord and master Donald Trump has already, after all, “predicted” a “rigged” election. And since this is an election conducted by a Democratic-controlled state widely deploying mail ballots (which Trump and many other Republicans consider suspect unless it works to their benefit, in which case it is peachy keen), the Big Lie more or less requires them to contest the fairness or legality of any election they lose.

But California Republican Larry Elder, the talk-show host who is leading most polls of the replacement contest that will name the new governor if a majority of voters decide to remove Newsom in a separate ballot question, isn’t waiting for the actual results to concede defeat and then allege fraud, as NBC News reports:

Republican Larry Elder appealed on Monday to his supporters to use an online form to report fraud, which claimed it had “detected fraud” in the “results” of the California recall election “resulting in Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor.”

The only problem: On Monday when the link was live on Elder’s campaign site, the election hadn’t even happened yet. No results had been released. And Elder was still campaigning to replace Newsom as governor.

This series of rather bold if premature claims were made on a site called “Fight California Election Fraud” that was “Paid For By Larry Elder Ballot Measure Committee Recall Newsom Committee.” The site also avers that with respect to the fraud claims, its “primary analytical tool used was Benford’s Law.” This, as aficionados of the Big Lie probably know, is a statistical theorem involving the likelihood of certain numerals in random displays of numbers. Experts on Benford’s Law have repeatedly and heatedly and redundantly objected to its use to “prove” fraud in election returns. So Elder’s campaign is engaged in crank conspiracy theories to claim election returns it cannot possible know at this point reflect fraud for which it has no evidence. And it’s doing so when at the same time Elder’s allies are expressing confidence that voters are about to throw Newsom out of office. It’s a classic heads-I-win, tails-you-lose attitude similar to the kind of things Trump said before, during and after the 2020 elections.

We may know by the wee hours of September 15 that the recall has failed if “no” is leading by big margins, but legitimate ballots postmarked by election day will still be counted if they are received by election officials as late as September 21. Jumping the gun on the results right now is pretty remarkable — though the campaign site was edited Tuesday changing the page claiming election fraud to a form in which voters could report election fraud. Regardless, evidence-free allegations of fraud are, well, pretty fraudulent.

This post has been updated.

Elder Concedes Defeat and Claims Fraud Before Election Day