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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

North Carolina judges strike down state’s voter ID law as racially biased

Photo: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

North Carolina judges ruled Friday that the state's latest photo identification voter law is racially biased and discriminates against Black voters, violating their equal protections.

Why it matters: This is the second time North Carolina has had a voter ID law overturned by the courts. In 2016, a federal appeals court blocked a similar 2013 law because it violated the Constitution and targeted Black voters with "almost surgical precision."

Sep 17, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Police overhaul measure back on ballot as Minneapolis voters head to polls

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Early voting begins in Minneapolis this morning, with a consequential question on the future of the police department back on the ballot.

Driving the news: In an eleventh hour ruling, the Minnesota Supreme Court overruled a Hennepin County judge's decision to strike the police charter amendment from the ballot over concerns that the language was too vague.

Why it matters: Question 2, which proposes replacing the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety agency that could include officers "if necessary," could fundamentally change public safety in Minneapolis by removing the minimum officer requirement and giving the City Council more say in police policies.

  • Supporters had argued that the judge's intervention subverted the will of the 20,000-plus voters who signed a petition to get the measure on the ballot.

What they're saying: Both supporters and critics of the proposal applauded the court's ruling.

  • "Voters can rejoice that their voice, their civic engagement, and their votes matter," a statement from the "yes" campaign read.
  • Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes the measure, said the court made "the right call," saying residents "deserve the opportunity to weigh in this fall and bring this debate to a close so we can move forward with clarity for our residents' safety."

Between the lines: The fight over the measure is expected to attract national attention and major spending on both sides — opponents are launching their first TV ad.

  • That battle could impact turnout and the outcome of other local contests, including the mayor's race and competitive City Council match-ups.
  • Questions on city governance and rent control, as well as the Park Board and Board of Estimate and Taxation races, are also on the ballot.

Zoom out: It's not just Minneapolis. Early voting begins in dozens of municipalities and school districts across the state today.

  • Voters in St. Paul pick a mayor, school board members and face a rent control question of their own.
  • Contests elsewhere cover city government, school boards, tax levies and other local ballot questions.

Be smart: Absentee ballots can be cast in person, often at an early vote center or local election office, or by mail. Click the links for early voting sites across Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.