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Backdating ballots in Wisconsin would not have altered vote count

December 5, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Postal service employees in Madison, Wisconsin, backdated the postmarks on late arriving ballots in the November election so they would be counted.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Ballots had to arrive by 8 p.m. on Election Day in Wisconsin to be counted in the 2020 election. The postmark was irrelevant. In addition, no evidence has been presented to show that any such ballot tampering occurred.

THE FACTS: Ethan Pease, who transported mail in Madison as an employee of a trucking company that contracts with USPS, has alleged that he heard postal service employees make comments suggesting they had backdated ballots after the election so they would count.

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Pease made the claim at a Dec. 1 press conference as part of a group of purported whistleblowers who alleged irregularities in the November election. The Amistad Project, which is affiliated with the conservative Thomas More Society law firm, conducted the press conference. 

Pease said that on Nov. 4 a “senior USPS employee” in Madison told him that “100,000 ballots were missing” and employees had been dispatched to look for them. Pease said the following day, Nov. 5, a different USPS employee, “admitted that USPS employees were ordered to backdate ballots that arrived too late to be lawfully counted.”

Pease’s story received widespread coverage on conservative sites. Pease told Sean Hannity on Fox News that, “I couldn’t go to the grave knowing what I knew and just keeping that to myself knowing something went wrong in this election.” In an interview with Lou Dobbs on Fox Business News, Dobbs said Pease had charged that “postal workers had backdated 100,000 mail-in ballots so they could be illegally counted.” The clip is widely shared on Facebook.

But even if ballots had been illegally backdated by postal workers as Pease claims, state law would prevent them from being counted.

“In Wisconsin, no ballots received after 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, could be counted, period,” Reid Magney, public information officer for Wisconsin Elections Commission told The Associated Press in an email. “It doesn’t matter when they were postmarked. This was extensively litigated in federal courts in the weeks prior to the election and everyone, including the post office, knew that postmarks were immaterial to whether ballots were counted in Wisconsin.”

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Pease’s company, United Mailing Services, did not return a request for comment. Neither did the Amistad Project. The group also declined to share with the AP the sworn affidavits the group said were provided by Pease and others who made allegations of voter fraud at the press conference.   

A press release from Amistad Project claims the alleged backdating of ballots Pease heard about coincided with a suspicious surge in votes for President-elect Joe Biden in Wisconsin.

“Mr. Pease’s sworn statement coincides in time with a dramatic ballot dump on the morning of November 5 which heavily favored Mr. Biden and which has caused significant controversy within the expert community regarding the statistical probability of the late insertion of tens of thousands of ballots in favor of a single candidate on the morning after the election,” reads the press release.

Magney, from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, disputed the allegation that there was a “ballot dump” in Wisconsin on Nov. 5. In Madison, where Pease is based, Magney said all ballots were tabulated and reported on Nov. 3. Magney said in MIlwaukee, absentee ballots were counted until early in the morning on Nov. 4. 

“No absentee totals could be reported for the city of Milwaukee until all the absentee ballots were counted, which is why the numbers changed so dramatically in the early morning hours,” Magney said. “There were no significant changes to unofficial election results after Wednesday morning, November 4.”

Amistad Project’s press release claims evidence of fraud in the election also includes “a Traverse City, Michigan, postal worker who was ordered to back date ballots.”

But Michigan, like Wisconsin, also requires all mailed ballots to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order for them to count. 

“That claim has been pretty well debunked already and was likely entirely fabricated,” Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for the Michigan secretary of state told the AP in an email. “Backdating ballot envelopes would be irrelevant since if they were still in the post office on Nov. 4 that means they did not arrive in time and would not count, no matter the postmark on them.” 

Wimmer added, “Whoever made up that claim was not familiar with Michigan election law.”

The AP requested comment from USPS about the allegations made at the Dec. 1 press conference and was referred to Agapi Doulaveris, a spokesperson for U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. Doulaveris told the AP her office “recently learned of this matter and are looking into the allegations.”

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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