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Quick results in California recall election not sign of ‘fraud’

September 15, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Officials counted “9 million mail in ballots” in an hour in the California gubernatorial recall election, whereas it took some states weeks to tabulate results in the 2020 presidential election.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. California’s recall election results were tabulated quickly in part because election officials were able to process mail-in ballots prior to Election Day. While The Associated Press and others have called the election, official counting continues.

THE FACTS: The AP declared Tuesday night that Gov. Gavin Newsom had defeated a GOP-led recall effort, based on the initial results of votes cast. In a tweet shared on Instagram, a conservative writer questioned the state’s quick tabulation of millions of votes, suggesting something was suspicious.

“California can count 9 million mail in ballots in an hour… but in 2020 we had many other states pauses for weeks?” the tweet asked. The Instagram caption added: “The more they show their hand the more fraud is apparent.”

Suggestions that California’s tabulation was fraudulent are unfounded.

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, said legislative changes in place for the 2020 election and also for Tuesday’s recall election required sending all of California’s 22 million voters mail-in ballots.

In addition to millions of voters choosing to cast their votes that way, she said, local election officials were given more time to process the mail ballots—which includes verifying signatures on envelopes and removing ballots from their envelopes before flattening and tallying them—prior to election day.

Once the polls closed, election officials were able to quickly count up the batches of mail-in votes that had already been processed, Alexander said, as well as add the results from early in-person voting.

Nearly 8 million mail ballots had been returned by the day before the election, the AP reported.

Even though the AP and others have called the recall election in California, official counting continues. The results will not be certified until Oct. 22.

The rules around election processes, including for mail-in votes, vary by state. In Pennsylvania, for example, officials cannot begin processing mail-in vote ballots until Election Day.

In the 2020 presidential election, the AP called Kentucky for former president Donald Trump, and Vermont for Joe Biden, by 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on election night. The AP ultimately called the presidential race for Biden on Nov. 7, four days after the election, even though official counting of votes continued.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.