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Ballots found by Arizona farm worker were all delivered before Election Day

November 5, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: An incident in which stolen ballots were found on the side of the road in Glendale, Arizona, is an alarming example of voter fraud.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. Eighteen sealed ballots discovered by a farm worker in a suburb of Phoenix on Oct. 30 were all delivered before Election Day, according to a statement from police. An investigation into who took the ballots and why is ongoing, but this isolated local incident did not result in the disenfranchisement of any Arizona voters.

THE FACTS: A widely shared social media post in the days after the U.S. presidential election featured a photo of ballots, yellowed by dirt, sitting in a rocky patch of soil. 

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In some posts, the image was accompanied by the headline, “Stolen Ballots Were Found Under a Rock On Side Of Road In Glendale, Arizona: Police.”

The inflammatory nature of these posts was enough for dozens of social media users to share them suggesting the situation could have jeopardized election integrity.

“The radical left has blatantly disenfranchised tens of millions of American voters while the whole world watches,” one Facebook user wrote. “This election should be declared invalid due to voter fraud.”

“Surprised? No,” read an Instagram post featuring the image with nearly 56,000 likes. 

The story was also picked up by Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, who on Wednesday told “Varney & Co.” host Stuart Varney she’d seen a Newsweek story about “tons of ballots found under a rock in Arizona.”  

While some news outlets reported on the situation in its entirety, many social media users shared screenshots of the image and the headline without the full context, causing confusion.

It’s true that a farm worker found unopened ballots underneath some concrete and rocks in a field in Glendale prior to the election, according to local police. But there were 18 of them, not “tons,” and they were all delivered before Election Day.

Glendale police published a statement about the incident on their Facebook page on Tuesday. 

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“On 10/30/2020, Brayan Ruiz was at work near 99th Ave and Glendale (Rovey Farms) when he located 18 early election ballots in the field underneath some concrete and rocks,” the statement said. “He did the right thing by returning the ballots trying to ensure everyone who wanted to vote early still could vote. The following day, on Halloween, many residents received unusual knocks at their door. Too early in the day for “trick or treaters,” hesitant residents opened their doors to Attorney General’s Special Agents Bill Knuth and Roger Geisler, and Glendale Police Officer Bill Downey.”

The statement went on to explain that law enforcement “hand delivered” each ballot to its rightful owner. 

“Each resident said they were aware their early election ballots had not arrived,” the statement said. “Some went in person to vote early, and others had not voted yet. We were able to distribute them in time, to provide voters the opportunity to at least fill them out at home and then drop them off to a polling location.”

The unopened ballots had been stolen from mailboxes in a Glendale neighborhood, according to an investigation by the Arizona attorney general’s office. That investigation was still ongoing on Tuesday, according to a statement from Attorney General Mark Brnovich. 

The Associated Press called the presidential race in Arizona for Democratic nominee Joe Biden early Wednesday morning. On Thursday, the AP was monitoring the vote count in the state as ballot tallying continued.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.


Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536