U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin this week defended President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the presidential election, saying that the “irregularities” and claims of widespread voter fraud that the president has insisted took place in some very specific areas of key swing states are deserving of thorough investigations regardless of whether there is evidence that either would substantially change the vote tallies.
The congressman said that once the national count has been vetted and tallied with “total integrity and transparency” the result should be “respected by both parties,” though he stopped short of saying that Mr. Trump should concede if changing the result is out of reach.
He also said that media coverage of the points of objection the president’s attorneys have raised, particularly in Pennsylvania, has underplayed the weight of the objections.
“There are some who decided a day or two after the election that all Trump supporters need to suck it up and sit down and shut up [but] that’s not how the electoral process works,” Mr. Zeldin said in a phone interview. “There are going to be recounts in Georgia and Wisconsin … and there are several different issues in the courts regarding Pennsylvania and elsewhere. If you want to unite our country after this election, the process is one that will need to be respected by both parties.”
Mr. Zeldin said that he has personally spoken with Mr. Trump since the election and said the president does believe that he won the election fair and square, despite the apparent but still unofficial results.
Mr. Zeldin said that even the rare and isolated instances of fraud that undeniably do take place justify the president’s numerous court challenges and accusations of fraud on a much grander, nationwide scale.
“There are people who are deceased who voted. There are issues where people who are not eligible to vote do, in fact, register and vote. There is an issue in Pennsylvania where the secretary of state made some unilateral changes that she didn’t have the power to do that the courts will rule on. In some parts of the state, ballots could be cured, where in some areas where Trump did best, they couldn’t,” Mr. Zeldin said, referring to some of the ongoing legal challenges in Pennsylvania. “I have seen many allegations of widespread irregularities. I am one of those guys who believes you should vet out those allegations and determine whether they are credible.”
The congressman nodded to tallying errors on one vote-tabulating machine that incorrectly recorded votes for Joseph Biden before election officials caught the error, policies in different Pennsylvania counties that allowed some absentee ballots that had technical errors to be fixed by the voter after Election Day, while other counties made no such efforts, and an allegation that some ballots appeared to have only presidential race votes marked and were “broadly lopsided” in favor of Mr. Biden.
Reporting by numerous national news organizations has detailed the issue of “cured” ballots that is before the U.S. Supreme Court, but appears to cast possible doubt on only about 500 ballots in Pennsylvania, and no evidence has been found of other voting machines beyond the one caught on election night having recorded votes incorrectly.
Mr. Zeldin himself remains in a race in which the apparent runner-up — his challenger, Nancy Goroff — has declined to concede, though the difference from the president’s situation is that tens of thousands of votes in the 1st Congressional District race have yet to be counted at all.
Mr. Zeldin, who leads by only slightly fewer votes than there are total absentee ballots still to be counted, has declared victory. Ms. Goroff has said that she simply wants all the votes counted.
But with the race officially in the “undecided” category, both campaigns have been using the occasion to solicit financial donations, ostensibly to help their own ongoing “fight,” though the money seems more likely headed elsewhere.
With so much about this year’s vote far from the ordinary, Mr. Zeldin said it has transcended the shocking controversy of even the 2000 Bush v. Gore legal fight.
“There are so many states still in focus, a week after the election, not just one,” he said. “We are in uncharted waters on multiple fronts.”