Georgia election: Donald Trump’s phone call fact-checked

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By Reality Check team
BBC News

Trump

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US President Donald Trump spent more than an hour on the phone to election officials in Georgia, as he continues to try to overturn the result in the state.

He made a number of accusations of fraud for which he did not provide evidence.

We’ve fact-checked some of his claims.

Claim 1: ‘So dead people voted. And I think the number is close to 5,000 people [in Georgia].’

President Trump and his supporters have repeatedly claimed thousands of votes were cast in states across the country, using the identities of people who had died.

But Georgia’s top election official, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, rejected the president’s assertion, saying there were just two confirmed cases of votes attributed to dead people.

The president’s lawyer Cleta Mitchell, also on the call, responded to this by suggesting they had details of dead people voting.

“There is a universe of people who have the same name and same birth year and died,” she told Mr Raffensperger.

However,

our previous investigation into a list of “10,000 dead voters” in Michigan found this approach seriously flawed.

Cross-referencing lists of deaths across the US and voters in a particular state produces thousands of matches – with the same name and birth year – both dead and alive.

Our study in Michigan produced a large number of matches even when the month of birth was included.

And we also contacted a sample of these “dead voters” and found them very much alive.

image copyrightEPA
image captionMr Trump told Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger: “I just want to find 11,780 votes”

Claim 2: ‘[There] were thousands and thousands of ballots in a box that was not an official or a sealed box.’

The president is referring to a video taken at a counting facility at the State Farm Arena, in Fulton County, Georgia, suggesting it reveals fraudulent activity by election workers.

The footage shows officials returning to their counting areas and a container with ballots being pulled out from under a table

“When they came back,” Mr Trump said in his phone call, “they didn’t go to their station.

“They went to the apron wrapped around the table, under which were thousands and thousands of ballots in a box that was not an official or a sealed box.”

Election officials have previously responded to this accusation, saying the footage shows normal practice.

Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager in Georgia, tweeted state investigators who had watched the whole video had found nothing untoward.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionGeorgia’s voting systems manager Gabriel Sterling has pushed back against the president’s claims

An official investigation found “the entire security footage revealed there were no mystery ballots that were brought in from an unknown location and hidden under tables as has been reported by some”.

Fulton County elections director Richard Barron said workers “put those ballot bins under their workspace because it’s the most convenient place to put those things”.

And state authorities said there was nothing unofficial about the boxes containing the ballots.

Claim 3: ‘They ran out because of a water-main break. And there was no water main, there was nothing. There was no break.’

Mr Trump is referring to a pause in the counting at the same location in Fulton County.

At the time, election officers issued a press statement saying a water leak had affected a room where absentee ballots were being tabulated.

An official investigation later clarified “what was initially reported as a water leak… was actually a urinal that had overflowed”.

The report said this had not affected the counting of votes by Fulton County which resumed later that evening.

President Trump also said when election workers had returned “there were no Republican poll watchers – actually, there were no Democrat poll watchers”.

This is true – but the official investigation found they had been neither asked to leave nor prevented from returning.

Frances Watson, chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state, said: “Nobody gave them any advice on what they should do.

“And it was still open for them or the public to come back in to view at whatever time they wanted to.”

Claim 4: ‘You had out-of-state voters – they voted in Georgia but they were from out of state – of 4,925.’

Ryan Germany, a lawyer representing Georgia’s secretary of state’s office during the call, has rejected this claim.

image copyrightGetty Images

“Every one we’ve been through are people that lived in Georgia, moved to a different state but then moved back to Georgia legitimately,” he said.

The numbers given by Mr Trump’s team regarding these supposed out-of-state voters were “not accurate”, Mr Germany added.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s Senate run-off election in Georgia, Mr Raffensperger said “qualified Georgians and only Georgians are allowed to vote in our elections” and out-of-state voters would not be tolerated.

And he warned anyone attempting to game the system: “We will find you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

Claim 5: “They’re shredding ballots. And you should look at that very carefully. Because that’s so illegal.”

The president mentioned what he said was the alleged shredding of “thousands” of “corrupt” ballot papers, implying that evidence of what he believes was voting malpractice had been deliberately destroyed.

In November, some social media posts claimed to show shredding companies destroying what were said to be ballot papers.

An investigation into the shredding of papers in Georgia’s Cobb County concluded that it was part of a “routine clean-up operation” and the documents disposed of were not actual votes “relevant to the election or the re-tally”.

These were old mailing labels and other papers with voter information, old e-mails and duplicate absentee ballot forms.

Claim 6: “We have not gone through your Dominion [voting machines], so we can’t give them blessing. I mean, in other states, we think we found tremendous corruption with Dominion machines…”

The president has made various allegations about widespread electronic voting fraud in several swing states.

He claims that the Dominion voting systems, which are widely used across the US, including in Georgia, led to millions of Trump votes being flipped to his rival Joe Biden.

But there is no evidence of this in Georgia or anywhere else, and several lawsuits regarding the claims have been rejected by courts.

Dominion Voting Systems have denied their machines were in any way compromised.

The allegations were widely covered by some right-wing US news networks, but Fox News and Newsmax have since had to issue corrections stating that there is no evidence that the machines manipulated votes in the election.

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