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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The "Big Lie," a falsehood peddled by Donald Trump that the 2020 election was "stolen," is now being peddled by conservative figures amid other down-ballot elections, most notably, the California recall election.

Why it matters: Now that the precedent has been set, some conservatives will likely use unfounded allegations of election fraud as a basis for undermining all potential election outcomes they don't agree with.

  • To be clear, there’s been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the California recall election, or 2020 presidential election.

Driving the news: Right-wing media and political figures have already begun alleging that the recall, which will take place on Tuesday, is "rigged."

  • Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren said last week that the only thing that will save California Gov. Gavin Newsom in his recall election is "voter fraud." The claim has been peddled by right-wing media outlets and personalities for the past few weeks.
  • "Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn’t rigged?" Trump's "Save America PAC" blasted in an email to supporters Monday.
  • "Millions and millions of Mail-In Ballots will make this just another giant Election Scam, no different, but less blatant, than the 2020 Presidential Election Scam!"

Be smart: Tech platforms like Twitter and Facebook implemented systems to better address false allegations of voter fraud during the 2020 election. However, it's clear that those systems aren't perfect and may not be equipped to handle similar narratives circling down-ballot elections moving forward.

  • Data from Zignal Labs, a social media intelligence firm, finds that between June 1 and September 1, mentions of things like "fraud," election "rigging" or "stealing ballots" received hundreds of thousands of mentions, with occurrences spiking in the past two weeks.
  • Google searches for ‘voter fraud’ in California have increased more than 5x over the last week, according to Google Trends data.

Bottom line: Trump's comments hold particularly strong weight, even without access to the major social media platforms to amplify them.

  • They give conservative pundits and politicians license to use the "Big Lie" falsehood to preemptively undermine any election, which could impact voter turnout.

Go deeper

Dec 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Secret Service: $100 billion stolen from COVID relief programs

Unemployment applications are made available at a Hialeah, Fla., library. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Nearly $100 billion has been stolen from U.S. government COVID relief programs — most in unemployment fraud, AP reports from a Secret Service announcement.

What they're saying: "The sheer size of the pot is enticing to the criminals," said Roy Dotson, the Secret Service pandemic fraud recovery coordinator.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Texas governor: "All hostages are out alive and safe"

SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Photo: Andy Jacobsohn/AFP via Getty Images

All four hostages have been safely released after a day-long standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said on Saturday night.

The latest: "Around 9 p.m., the HRT — hostage rescue team — breached the synagogue, they rescued the three [remaining] hostages, the suspect is deceased," said police chief Michael Miller of Colleyville, located roughly 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth. The other hostage had been released earlier Saturday.

The new normal: Google searches reveal America's COVID shopping habits

Data: The New Normal; Google Trends; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

As the pandemic enters its third year, some of America's COVID-era shopping habits — including strong demand for tequila and sweatpants — are here to stay.

Driving the news: Axios worked with Google Trends and the Schema Design firm to create The New Normal, which analyzes the products Americans have Googled since 2020. Items with a lasting increase in search interest help fill in the details of what our "new normal" looks like.