A video from a livestream of the vote-counting process in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, shows election workers transcribing votes from damaged ballots so they could be scanned and recorded, according to the county. Social media users are sharing the video with the false suggestion it shows workers committing voter fraud.
As the country awaited additional election results out of the crucial state of Pennsylvania, a viral video emerged on social media with the false allegation that election workers in one county of the state were committing fraud — in full view of the county’s own public live stream, no less.
Delaware County officials, however, said the short video clip being shared widely on social media actually shows workers transcribing votes from damaged ballots so that the votes could be recorded by a scanner.
One viral video was shared on Twitter by an account using the label “Stop the Steal,” and was captioned, “Hi there, Twitter! Here’s video pulled from the Delaware County, PA live stream of a ballot worker filling out ballots.” Another post amplifying the same video was then re-tweeted nearly 18,000 times.
The video was shared on Facebook, too, where one post was captioned, “RED HANDED: Poll workers filling out ballots in Delaware County, PA.…”
The county released a statement saying that the brief, viral video had deceivingly cropped “out the surrounding area, including the bipartisan observers who were not more than six feet away.”
The video is being taken out of context to make “false accusations” and attack the “the integrity of the election staff and the completely transparent process by which votes are being counted in Delaware County,” officials said.
They also released a screenshot from the same livestream, showing a wider, uncropped view that also showed observers in the room.
The process was done because “some ballots were damaged by the extractor during this process in such a way that the ballots could not be scanned successfully,” the county said; representatives for the county Republicans had agreed to the arrangement. (The extractor refers to the machine that separates the ballot from its envelope.)
“According to the scanner manufacturer, Hart, the best practice to deal with damaged ballots that cannot be scanned is to transcribe the votes on each ballot to a clean ballot and scan the clean ballot,” the county’s statement continued. “In accordance with that guidance, the Chief Clerk of the Delaware County Bureau of Elections instructed elections staff to manually transcribe the damaged ballots. As ballots were being transcribed, the original damaged ballots were directly beside the new ballots and bipartisan observers witnessed the process at close range.”
The county preserved the damaged ballots.
Delaware County spokeswoman Adrienne Marofsky told us in an email that in total, the county had 1,634 damaged ballots. The county has reported about 320,000 votes.
Looking at mail-in ballots alone, former Vice President Joe Biden received 105,381 votes compared to President Donald Trump’s 19,796.
Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that the process outlined by Delaware County was common.
“The ‘remaking’ or ‘reconstructing’ of absentee ballots is a common and expected practice in most states,” he said in an email. “Ballots that arrive by mail are sometimes damaged or have stray marks that prevent them from being scanned by tabulation machines.”
Burden said election workers are typically instructed to transfer the voter’s choices from the unreadable ballot to a new one.
“The viral video appears to show election workers cooperating in pairs to do exactly this, with one person reading from the defective ballot and another person across the table transferring those choices onto a new ballot,” he said.
In the video, workers completing the recreated ballots can be seen applying a stamp to them. Marofsky said the stamp is “part of the transcribing process—which separate a mail in ballot from an absentee ballot.”
Similar videos depicting the same process also spread online. One Instagram video liked nearly 5,000 times was captioned: “ELECTION FRAUD ALERT ⚠️ In Delaware County Pennsylvania EVEN MORE poll workers CAUGHT filling out the ballots while she is supposed to be counting them.”
That video shows two workers — who can also be seen in the background of the other video — engaging in the same process, Marofsky said.
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.
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Burden, Barry. Director, Elections Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Email to FactCheck.org. 6 Nov 2020.
“Delaware County’s response to video circulating of ballots.” Delaware County, Pennsylvania. 6 Nov 2020.
Marofsky, Adrienne. Spokeswoman, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Email to FactCheck.org. 6 Nov 2020.
“Live Stream.” Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Accessed 6 Nov 2020.
Unofficial Results | General Election. Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Accessed 6 Nov 2020.