Fact check: No evidence of fraud in Georgia election results
The claim: A preliminary audit in Georgia found 30,000 'fake ballots'
Another review of ballots in Georgia's most populous county has inspired a rash of misinformation about the results of the 2020 presidential election.
On May 21, a Georgia judge agreed to unseal more than 145,000 absentee ballots in a case that alleges Fulton County, home of Atlanta, mishandled ballots. The review is one of a slew of efforts to question election results in states like Arizona and New Hampshire.
None of those efforts will change the outcome of the 2020 election, but an image in a May 27 Facebook post says the Georgia review has already uncovered fraud.
"Preliminary audit finds 30,000 fake ballots that are on the wrong paper, have no folds and have been filled out by machine," says text in the image, which has more than 1,000 shares.
Since President Joe Biden beat incumbent Donald Trump in Georgia by more than 12,000 votes, the state has been a hot spot for misinformation about election fraud. But three separate audits found no evidence of wrongdoing affecting the state's election results — and the review mentioned in the post hasn't even started yet.
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the post for comment.
Three audits didn't find fraud
The Georgia secretary of state's office has audited the state's election results three times. None of those audits turned up evidence of widespread fraud.
"Our law enforcement officers and secretary of state's office spent literally thousands of hours examining ballots in Fulton County and other counties trying to track these kinds of claims down, and so far we've seen nothing give any merit to it," Gabriel Sterling, the Republican chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the Georgia secretary of state's office, said in a recent interview with CNN.
In one audit, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation analyzed absentee ballots in Cobb County and found no evidence of fraud. Lawsuits challenging Georgia's 2020 election results failed, and the state's Republican secretary of state has repeatedly quashed claims of voter fraud.
A fourth review of absentee ballots in Fulton County hasn't found fraud, either.
Because the review hasn't happened yet.
A judge had planned to consider procedures for reviewing the ballots, which will not leave Fulton County custody, on May 28. But the meeting was postponed because the county has filed motions to dismiss the case, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The Facebook post's claim about 30,000 "fake ballots" appears to stem from a recent episode of the show "War Room" with Steve Bannon, former Trump White House chief strategist. John Fredericks, a conservative radio host, asserted on the show that affidavits from four people who were in the room during a recount say up to 30,000 ballots are counterfeit.
As PolitiFact reported, those affidavits contain unverified allegations about the integrity of absentee ballots, including claims that they didn't have creases and came on different paper stock. They do not prove 30,000 ballots were fabricated.
The affidavits have been promoted by VoterGA, a group co-founded by Garland Favorito, one of the plaintiffs in the case seeking to review absentee ballots in Fulton County. In the past, Favorito has promoted conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
USA TODAY reached out to the Georgia secretary of state's office for comment, but it did not provide one on the record.
Our rating: False
The claim that a preliminary audit in Georgia found 30,000 "fake ballots" is FALSE, based on our research. Three separate audits of Georgia's 2020 election results found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. A review of absentee ballots in Fulton County has not started yet, and affidavits related to that review do not prove 30,000 ballots were fabricated.
Our fact-check sources:
- Michelle Noonan, May 27, Facebook
- Associated Press, May 25, It’s not just Arizona: Push to review 2020 ballots spreads
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 21, Georgia headed toward yet another presidential election review
- National Archives, accessed May 28, 2020 Electoral College Results
- Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, accessed May 28, November 3, 2020: General Election
- USA TODAY, Dec. 14, 2020, Fact check: Georgia 'suitcase' video is missing context
- USA TODAY, Dec. 2, 2020, Fact check: Video claim that Dominion tech manipulated Georgia votes is false
- USA TODAY, Dec. 16, 2020, Fact check: Claim of Georgia vote spike for Biden after pipe burst at counting site is false
- USA TODAY, Jan. 3, Fact check: Trump’s made-up claims of fake Georgia votes in controversial phone call
- CNN, May 23, Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling says the latest audit in Atlanta is spurred by Trump's big lie
- Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, accessed May 28, 3RD STRIKE AGAINST VOTER FRAUD CLAIMS MEANS THEY'RE OUT AFTER SIGNATURE AUDIT FINDS NO FRAUD
- Georgia Public Broadcasting, May 25, What Is Happening With Fulton County's Absentee Ballots?
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 27, Ballot inspection seeks elusive proof of fraud in Georgia election
- PolitiFact, May 27, Claim of ballots in “error” in Fulton County, Ga., is based on unproven allegation
- VoterGA, May 24, Court Rules to Unseal Fulton Co. Mail-in Ballots 3rd Victory for VoterGA in Ballot Inspection Case
- Kari Carwile, May 22, Facebook
- USA TODAY, Jan. 6, By the numbers: President Donald Trump's failed efforts to overturn the election
- USA TODAY, Nov. 30, 2020, 'Fantastic claims, half-truths, misinformation': Georgia official says Trump supporters misled
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