Election 2020: Debunking false and misleading videos claiming to show voter fraud

We fact check some of the false videos circulating on about the election count.

ByFergal Gallagher, Catherine Sanz, and Lena Camilletti
November 13, 2020, 4:01 AM

While many have acknowledged that former Vice President Joe Biden is the winner of the 2020 presidential election, projected to win more than the required 270 electoral votes, President Donald Trump and his allies are continuing to sow doubt about the results, despite not having evidence to the contrary and significant vote deficits in multiple crucial states.

The president, who trails Biden by more than 5 million votes, has long made baseless claims about this and other elections being rigged. In the wake of Election Day, his supporters have pointed to multiple videos purporting to be proof of malfeasance in the electoral process.

Many of these have been shared by Trump, his family and supporters. ABC News’ team of visual verification experts have been investigating several of these videos and debunked a number of the most prominent, which are described below.

Some videos are completely manufactured, while others are real videos of genuine counting that has been taken out of context to try to imply some sort of wrongdoing. So far, ABC News has not found any evidence of widespread election fraud.

All of the videos described below have either been removed from social media or marked as misleading.

Collecting ballots from a dropbox in Los Angeles, but they weren't late

Donald Trump tweeted, “You are looking at BALLOTS! Is this what our Country has come to?” alongside this video on Nov. 4, the day after Election Day. The video shows two men collecting ballots from a drop box in LA. It is not clear what the President was implying but the woman filming the video asks the men why the race in California has already been called if they are still counting votes.

Labelling false/misleading Video
ABC News Photo Illustration

The original video was filmed on Nov. 4, the day after the election, in Reseda, a neighborhood in Los Angeles county. The following day, the office of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk responded to a posting of the video on Twitter, saying:

"All Drop Boxes were closed and locked at 8 p.m. on Election Night and ballots were collected the following day. These are valid ballots that will be processed and counted during the post-election canvass — like all outstanding vote-by-mail ballots."

Regardless, most networks, including ABC News, projected the race in reliably Democratic California for Biden moments after the polls closed. Biden leads Trump by nearly 5 million votes in California, according to the secretary of state.

Election counters are transcribing ballots -- not filling out new votes

Labelling false/misleading Video
ABC News Photo Illustration

This video was circulated very widely on Nov. 5, purporting to show an election worker in Pennsylvania filling out empty ballots with votes for Joe Biden. The video is a genuine clip taken from the livestream of the count center in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Some versions of the video were cropped so that the election observers were not visible, seemingly showing the counter alone at the table. The Delaware Country Bureau of elections responded to ABC News, explaining that the worker was actually manually copying damaged ballots. Ballots were damaged by the extractor machine used to open envelopes so they could not be scanned, therefore they had to be copied by hand in front of observers so that they could be processed.

“The Chief Clerk of the Delaware County Bureau of Elections instructed elections staff to manually transcribe the damaged ballots. As ballots were being transcribed, the original damaged ballots were directly beside the new ballots and bipartisan observers witnessed the process at close range. Damaged ballots have been preserved,” the statement read.

A joke from a prankster, not an election employee tearing up ballots

This video was being widely shared on TikTok and alternative platform Parler on Nov. 9 and showed someone claiming to be responsible for separating ballots. He explains the job, then tears and throws out a ballot that he says had a vote for Donald Trump. The video was original posted by Dale Harrison as an ill-timed joke. After the video went viral, Harrison posted to his Facebook page saying: “I’m always joking! And it’s getting crazyyyy views.”

Labelling false/misleading Video
ABC News Photo Illustration

Other images from Harrison’s now private TikTok account showed him filming other videos in the same room, proving that this video was not filmed at a count center.

There were no ballots found in a dumpster in Griffin, Georgia

This video was posted to Twitter on Nov. 6 showing people searching through a dumpster next to the Spalding County Elections Office in Griffin, Georgia. The poster claimed people found Navy absentee ballots for Trump. The Spalding County Sheriff’s office refuted the claims in a statement.

Labelling false/misleading Video
ABC News Photo Illustration

According to the statement, officers were called to the dumpster on Nov. 5, emptied the contents, went through each document and found no ballots at all. The Sheriff's office also says that nobody found any ballots in the dumpster the night before either. They did find a number of empty envelopes that were used to mail the ballots but no actual ballots. The sheriff also had his deputies search trash at all 18 polling places in Spalding County and no election-related documents were found.

“These are facts, not rumors, allegations, misinformation, or gossip,” the statement read.

This man is ripping up paper with instructions in Atlanta, not ballots

Labelling false/misleading Video
ABC News Photo Illustration

This video received millions of views on Nov. 5 after being retweeted by Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. It shows a worker crumpling a piece of paper and then throwing it away and the commentator on the recording can be heard saying, “if that’s not voter fraud, I don’t know what is."

The next day, Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron said in a press conference that the video shows the man crumpling a piece of paper that had instructions printed on it, not a ballot. He explained that the ballot papers are much larger than the paper in this video. Barron explained that the personal information of the man depicted in the video had been published online and he has had to go into hiding after being threatened.

Video shows someone purportedly burning sample ballots, but they're not real

This video was posted by an anonymous account on Nov. 4 without a clear location, but spread widely after being retweeted by Eric Trump. The poster claimed that the video showed someone burning ballots cast for Donald Trump.

Labelling false/misleading Video
ABC News Photo Illustration

The ballots shown in the video are in fact sample ballots. In a statement debunking the video, the city of Virginia Beach showed that the ballots were missing the barcode markings that are present in the real ballots as shown in the image below.

PHOTO: The real ballots have barcoding around the perimeter which is missing form the ballots in the video.
Image from the city of Virginia Beach shows that the sample ballots in the video lack the barcode around the perimeter that is present in real ballots.
City of Virginia Beach

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