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Photo shows mail from 2018, not discarded Trump ballots

September 28, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: A photo of mail bins and envelopes on the side of the road shows discarded Trump ballots found in states such as California, Texas and Pennsylvania.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The photo does not show ballots with votes for President Donald Trump. It shows mail bins and envelopes abandoned by a mail carrier in New Jersey who quit in 2018.

THE FACTS: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram users this week are sharing a photo of plastic mail bins and envelopes piled on the side of the road as alleged proof of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

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“Boy oh boy, there finding thrown away Trump ballets everywhere now, California, Texas, n Pennsylvania,” read a Sunday tweet shared more than 12,000 times. “How does the USPO explain this??”

Similar posts on Facebook and Instagram also received thousands of likes and shares.

However, a reverse-image search reveals the photo does not show abandoned Trump ballots. Instead, the two-year-old photo shows mail left by a mail carrier in New Jersey in 2018. The mail was scheduled for delivery on Aug. 8, 2018, and the carrier resigned a month later, according to local news reports at the time.

When the mail was discovered in October 2018, Pennsylvania’s Roxborough Station Post Office planned to send it out for redelivery, according to a statement at the time from the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

The claims circulating this week about trashed ballots come as Trump and others have argued without evidence that a nationwide increase in mail-in voting means a higher potential for voter fraud.

The Associated Press has debunked a range of false claims on the topic, and experts say voter fraud is exceedingly rare. Mail-in ballots are subject to the same level of scrutiny as absentee ballots, which Trump endorses.

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Last week, social media users claimed a photo showed completed mail-in ballots in a dumpster in California, but officials in Sonoma County explained it actually showed empty ballot envelopes from 2018 that were properly discarded according to the law.

A U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania last week announced that nine military ballots had been “discarded” by a local election office, according to reporting by the AP. Seven of the ballots were out of their envelopes and marked for Trump, the report said. The county manager on Friday said the situation was “an error” that was reported to law enforcement.

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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