Fact Check: Fulton County Did NOT Count 20,713 Votes That Did Not Exist In 2020 Election

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: Fulton County Did NOT Count 20,713 Votes That Did Not Exist In 2020 Election Absent ≠ Fraud

Did Fulton County, Georgia, count 20,713 votes that did not exist in the 2020 election and that there are "no records" for, such as poll tapes? No, that's not true: An election-watchdog expert said that claiming votes are missing because of missing poll tapes is "like telling me my house doesn't exist unless I can find all the bank documents." The Georgia Secretary of State public information officer for elections told Lead Stories that "A missing poll tape by itself means nothing about the accuracy and validity of an election, because of the multiple tallies and redundant safeguards we use to ensure election integrity." The communications division manager for Fulton County dismissed as "unequivocally false" the assertion that the county added fraudulent votes to the 2020 vote count. The votes in the 2020 general election in Fulton County, Georgia, were counted three times: on election night, in an audit and in a recount, that manager said.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on X, formerly known as Twitter, on December 17, 2023. It opened:

BREAKING: Fulton County counted 20,713 votes that did not exist in the 2020 election, according to a public record request.

Trump 'lost' Georgia in 2020 by 11,779 votes.

This is what the post looked like on X at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-12-21 at 3.19.48 PM.png

Twitter screenshot

(Source: X screenshot taken on Fri Dec 22 16:11:09 2023 UTC)

The post cites a complaint (archived here) that was submitted to the Georgia State Election Board by Joseph Rossi in July 2022. The post shows a table from the complaint along with details that state that "poll tapes from 10 vote tabulators used to count in-person votes cast before Election Day 'do not exist.'"

Lead Stories previously fact checked the claim that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's lawyers notified Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that 17,852 invalid votes were counted in Fulton County, Georgia, for the 2020 general election.

The absence of poll-tape records alone during a recount from the 2020 general election in Georgia does not prove that the election was stolen or that former President Donald Trump won the state since other records also exist. In 2020, the Secretary of State (archived here) reported that Democratic candidate Joe Biden won in Georgia; Biden also prevailed in Fulton County, according to the county's official vote results (archived here):

Screen Shot 2023-12-22 at 8.26.16 AM.png

(Source: Fulton County, Georgia website screenshot taken on Fri Dec 22 15:44:12 2023 UTC)

The Secretary of State's public information officer for elections, Mike Hassinger, explained to Lead Stories via email on December 22, 2023, how Georgia's vote recording works:

The poll tape is one record of votes cast either in a polling location or by a single machine. Sometimes they are not generated (the machine runs out of paper on which to print the tapes, for instance, or they just get lost). But a lack of a poll tape doesn't invalidate a single vote. The counts of which have been recorded on the machine, by the scanners, by the number of ballots given out by the poll workers, in the Statement of Votes Cast, etc. A poll tape is not the only place votes get recorded.

Hassinger used the example of shopping at a grocery store to explain the procedure:

A good analogy is your receipt from a grocery store, which shows what you purchased, in what quantities and what you paid. If you lose your receipt, there's still evidence of your purchase in the store's accounting program, the individual cash register that rang you up, your bank records that a show a charge on your card -and the groceries themselves, which in this case are the equivalent of ballots.

In response to a query by Lead Stories, Fulton County Communications Division Manager Regina Waller responded by email on December 21, 2023, that the claim is "disinformation":

The Fulton County Department of Registration & Elections maintains that, the assertion that Fulton County added fraudulent votes to the November 2020 election and subsequent recount is unequivocally false, and the claim that over 20k votes were found is disinformation. Multiple audits, investigations, and recounts, including a hand recount of all ballots, confirmed the accuracy, and integrity of the election results in Fulton County. There were also independent audits and investigations by state and local officials, as well as third-party observers, and no evidence of election fraud, discrepancies, nor irregularities that could have affected the outcome of the 2020 election were found.

Mark Lindeman, policy and strategy director at the election watchdog Verified Voting (archived here), told Lead Stories via telephone on December 22, 2023, that the claim that over 20,000 votes "did not exist" because the poll tapes are missing is "quite ridiculous":

Georgia voters' votes are recorded, first and foremost, on their paper ballots -- not on poll tapes. Saying that some of those votes 'don't exist' because the poll tapes are missing is like telling me my house doesn't exist unless I can find all the bank documents. It makes no sense.

He explained:

And in this case, of course, we know that the votes exist because every one of them was hand counted. Now the hand count varied slightly from the original count. And then there's another machine recount. Yes, the machine recount that again varied slightly.

All the evidence indicates that seizing on missing documentation is simply irrational. If that missing documentation were shown to be the tip of some iceberg, that would be very interesting. But three years later, it should be more obvious than ever that there is no iceberg.

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims about Georgia and the 2020 election and Secretary of State Raffensperger can be found here. Our debunks of claims about Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp can be read here.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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