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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Claim of Michigan Postal Fraud Is Moot

Quick Take

A video from a right-wing activist suggests that U.S. Postal Service employees backdated ballots in Michigan. The claim is unproven, but, even if true, no ballots in the state are accepted after Nov. 3, regardless of the postmark.

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Project Veritas, a right-wing activist organization, added to the onslaught of misinformation aimed at discrediting the election results this week.

In a video posted to the group’s YouTube channel, its founder, James O’Keefe, claimed to present a Postal Service “whistleblower” with information suggesting election fraud in Michigan.

With his voice modified to disguise his identity, the so-called whistleblower says in the video: “We were issued a directive this morning to collect any ballots we find… so that they could hand stamp them with the previous day’s date. Today is Nov. 4, for clarification.”

Election Day was Nov. 3, so the implication is that the U.S. Postal Service was participating in a scheme to allow illegitimate votes to be counted.

We don’t know if there was any such “directive.” The U.S. Postal Service inspector general’s office is investigating the complaint, spokesman Agapi Doulaveris told FactCheck.org by email, and, she said, “no additional information [is] available at this time.”

But, even so, it would have no bearing on the election. Michigan law specifies that mail-in ballots “must reach the clerk or an authorized assistant of the clerk before the close of the polls on election day. An absent voter ballot received by the clerk or assistant of the clerk after the close of the polls on election day will not be counted.”

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office has also explained on its website, “Michigan’s election clerks count valid ballots that they received at their offices or in their official ballot drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots received thereafter, regardless of the postmark, are not counted.”

And, just to be very clear, Bonnie Scheele, the county clerk for the area that includes the post office referenced in the video, told PolitiFact, “Even if the ballots were postmarked as Nov. 3, they cannot be counted because the ballots had to be in the hands of the township or city clerks by 8 p.m. Nov. 3.”

Also worth noting is that President Donald Trump received more votes in that county, although his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, did get more mail-in votes.

Despite the fact that the claim is moot, Donald Trump Jr., one of the president’s children, retweeted the video to his 6 million followers with this message referring to the Department of Justice: “Where is the DOJ???”

And some conservative outlets promoted it, too. Fox News host Sean Hannity called the Project Veritas video a “bombshell” on the Nov. 5 episode of his show, and a website called Chicks On The Right used the same term to describe it. The Russia-based, government-funded network RT, formerly Russia Today, promoted the claim, too.

Update, April 29: John Sullivan, general counsel for Project Veritas, wrote to us to object to our description of O’Keefe as a “right-wing activist.” We described O’Keefe as a “right-wing activist” — as other media outlets have done, including the Associated PressNew York Times and New York Magazine — because O’Keefe and Project Veritas are best known for posting secretly recorded videos that target liberal groups, mainstream news organizations and Democrats.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.


FactCheck.org. “Viral Voting Misinformation.” Updated 6 Nov 2020.

Doulaveris, Agapi. Spokesman, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. Email to FactCheck.org. 6 Nov 2020.

Michigan Election Law. Act 116 of 1954. Legislature.mi.gov. Accessed 6 Nov 2020.

Michigan Secretary of State. Election security in Michigan. Accessed 6 Nov 2020.

McCarthy, Bill. “Allegations of USPS election fraud in Michigan don’t hold up.” PolitiFact. 5 Nov 2020.

Trump, Donald Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr). “Where is the DOJ???” Twitter. 4 Nov 2020.