Q: Have provisional ballots been rejected as “duplicates” in Fulton County, Georgia?
A: No. A provisional ballot labeled “duplicate” means it has been counted, not rejected.
More than a week after the midterm elections at least a dozen races remain undetermined, and partisan websites are adding to the confusion by posting misinformation about vote counts.
One story that has been shared on social media accounts with a combined following of almost 4 million claims: “Bombshell numbers out of Fulton County, Georgia show that a vast amount of the provisional ballots submitted in the Democrat stronghold were rejected for being duplicate ballots.”
But that’s not true.
Here’s what has actually happened with the provisional vote count in Fulton County, Georgia — the county that includes most of the city of Atlanta:
First of all, those who show up to the polls and find that they aren’t able to vote can cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted only if it could be confirmed later that the person is, in fact, an eligible voter. In Georgia, provisional ballots are often cast if someone doesn’t have the proper ID or because the person’s name doesn’t show up on the list of registered voters.
Provisional voting was mandated nationally by the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002, but is applied in accordance with state laws. For example, in Georgia, a state that has a voter ID law, if the reason a voter has cast a provisional ballot is because he or she didn’t have identification on Election Day, that person has three days to produce an ID, according to state law.
After the Nov. 6 election, 1,994 provisional ballots in Fulton County were counted as votes, according to the numbers certified by the county’s Board of Registration and Elections on Nov. 13. Of those, 356 were cast by voters who were in the right precinct, but had an issue with their voting status or ID and were able to resolve it before the three-day deadline, Richard Barron, director of registration and elections for Fulton County, told the board at a Nov. 13 meeting. The other 1,638 were duplicate ballots, which are ballots that were cast by eligible Fulton County voters who had gone to the wrong precinct, Barron said.
Because the precinct where the ballot was cast must duplicate the ballot and send it to the precinct where the voter is registered, such ballots are called duplicate ballots, explained April Majors, spokeswoman for Fulton County, in an interview with FactCheck.org. Those ballots aren’t rejected; they are re-routed, so the claim that “a vast amount of the provisional ballots submitted in the Democrat stronghold were rejected for being duplicate ballots” is wrong.
The actual number of ballots that were rejected in Fulton County was 1,555, Barron told the board. Of those, 581 voters were not registered; 972 voters had been in the wrong county (ballots don’t get re-routed if the voter is registered in a different county, Majors said), and two voters had failed to provide proof of citizenship.
That means that 44 percent of the provisional ballots cast in Fulton County were rejected, which is comparable to statewide averages in recent election years. In 2016, which was a presidential election year, the state of Georgia rejected 55 percent of the provisional ballots that were cast. In 2014, which, like this year, was a midterm election, Georgia rejected 43 percent of the provisional ballots cast.
So, the claim that “bombshell” numbers show “a vast amount” of provisional ballots were “rejected” for being “duplicate[s]” is false.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.
Stewart, Emily. “The 2018 midterm races that still aren’t over.” Vox.com. 14 Nov 2018.
Howley, Patrick. “BOMBSHELL: Fulton County Numbers Show Massive Duplicate Ballots, Rejected Ballots, Non-Citizens Trying To Vote.” BigLeaguePolitics.com. 11 Nov 2018.
U.S. House. “H.R. 3295, Help America Vote Act of 2002.” U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Accessed 14 Nov 2018.
Georgia Code. Section 21-2-419. Validation of provisional ballots; reporting to Secretary of State. Accessed 14 Nov 2018.
Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections. Meeting to certify election results. 13 Nov 2018.
Office of the Secretary of State, Georgia. “Georgia Voter Information Guide.” Accessed 14 Nov 2018.
U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The Election Administration and Voting Survey — 2016 Comprehensive Report. Jun 2017.
U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The 2014 EAC Election Administration and Voting Survey Comprehensive Report. Jun 2015.