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Politics Fact check: False claim that photo of discarded mail shows ballots cast for Trump

21:40  20 october  2020
21:40  20 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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The claim: A photo shows mail-in ballots cast for President Donald Trump discarded on the side of a road

A forklift operator loads absentee ballots for mailing on Sept. 3, 2020, in Raleigh, North Carolina. © Gerry Broome/AP A forklift operator loads absentee ballots for mailing on Sept. 3, 2020, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Amid mounting concern about the role of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election, one social media user posted a photo of dozen boxes of mail discarded on the side of the road.

"Boy oh boy, there finding thrown away Trump ballets (sic) everywhere now, California, Texas, n Pennsylvania," Kimberly C. Lecroy wrote on Facebook alongside the image. "How does the USPO explain this??"

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Lecroy did not respond to a request from USA TODAY for comment.

Fact check: 2018 empty mail-in ballot envelopes in California dumpster spur false fraud claims

The photo is real, but it's from 2018, and Trump wasn't on the ballot

In reality, the photo Lecroy posted is unrelated to the 2020 election.

The image first appeared on Facebook on Sept. 30, 2018, when a user posted it with the caption, "If your looking for your mail it maybe on river road by 36st station..."

That post was shared thousands of times, prompting U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Special Agent Scott Balfour to investigate the incident, per NJ.com.

Balfour concluded the mail had been out for delivery from the Roxborough Station Post Office in Philadelphia on Aug. 8, 2018, when the worker who was tasked with dropping it off decided instead to dump it on the side of the road.

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Agents tracked down the employee who threw out the mail, but learned that employee had already resigned on Sept. 8, 2018.

"We do not anticipate any further action against this individual," Balfour said at the time. "The Roxborough Station Post Office is going to deliver the mail."

It's impossible that there were any ballots for President Donald Trump in the batch of mail; he was not up for reelection in 2018.

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Seven Trump ballots discarded in Pennsylvania, none in California or Texas

Independent of the photo, Lecroy claims in her post that ballots for Trump have been found "thrown away ... everywhere now," including California, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

In reality, there have been no true reports of ballots for Trump discarded in California or Texas.

Claims that sealed mail-in ballots were found in a dumpster in California, for example, were false, because the materials were actually empty envelopes from a previous election, recycled after the mandated ballot preservation period.

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The one report of discarded ballots in Pennsylvania was not related to the U.S. Postal Service, as Lecroy suggests.

On Sept. 24, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that nine military ballots were incorrectly discarded in Luzerne County. Seven of the nine were found in a dumpster outside of their envelopes, all of which were marked as votes for Trump.

Luzerne County removed the temporary contractor who made the error while sorting ballots and cooperated with the FBI to recover the ballots from the dumpster, per County Manager C. David Pedri.

Until the announcement from the Justice Department, Pedri wrote that he was unaware the ballots in question had been cast for Trump.

He maintained that the system is safe.

“While the actions of this individual has cast a concern, the above statement shows that the system of checks and balances set forth in Pennsylvania elections works,” Pedri wrote. “An error was made, a public servant discovered it and reported it to law enforcement at the local, State and Federal level who took over to ensure the integrity of the system in place.”

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Fact check: Pennsylvania mail-in votes need 2 envelopes to be counted

Our rating: False

Based on our research, the claim that a photo shows mail-in ballots cast for President Donald Trump discarded on the side of a road is FALSE. As for the remainder of the Facebook post, our research did not reveal discarded Trump ballots in California or Texas. Seven discarded ballots for Trump were found in Pennsylvania after an error by a temporary contractor, not the U.S. Postal Service.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Kewnoneal Bennett, Sept. 30 2018, Facebook post
  • Newsweek, Oct. 4, 2018, Postal Worker Quits, Dumps Hundreds of Letters on Side of the Road
  • USA TODAY, Sept. 30, Fact check: 2018 empty mail-in ballot envelopes in California dumpster spur false fraud claims
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Sept. 24, 2020, Letter to Luzerne County Bureau of Elections
  • David Pedri, Sept. 25, 2020, Luzurne County's Response to the Requested Investigation of UMOVA Ballots
  • CheckYourFact, Oct. 12, FACT CHECK: VIRAL IMAGE CLAIMS TO SHOW CRATES OF 2020 MAIL-IN BALLOTS ABANDONED ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD
  • Lead Stories, Oct. 5, Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Abandoned 2020 Mail-In Ballots
  • NJ.com, Jan. 29, 2019, Mail carrier dumped hundreds of letters on side of road and quit

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Hillary Clinton joins Electoral College 4 years after it cost her the presidency: 'Pretty sure I'll get to vote for Joe'

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim that photo of discarded mail shows ballots cast for Trump

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