The claim: Democrat-led states where Trump was winning stopped counting votes on election night. This is election meddling.
For many Americans, election night was full of too much anxiety and not enough sleep. As the country awoke to a morning of uncertainty, misinformation about the integrity of vote counting was abundant.
“There is NOTHING WRONG with asking why SWING STATES that are run by DEMOCRATS where TRUMP IS WINNING by massive margins (hundreds of thousands of votes) just STOP COUNTING for no reason at all,” Benny Johnson tweeted in the early morning on Nov. 4. “This is domestic election interference and election meddling.”
USA TODAY could find no evidence to suggest any Democrat-run state stopped counting ballots intentionally.
Counting takes longer because of mail-in ballots
While mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day in every state, many states still accept them if they arrive later.
Polls show that Democrats were much more likely to vote by mail, while Republicans were more likely to vote in person.
Further, many swing states announced before Election Day that they did not anticipate having all votes counted that night, given the expected volume of mailed-in ballots, combined with some state laws. Experts said final presidential election results could take up to two weeks, as a result.
For example, on Oct. 28, the Supreme Court held that Pennsylvania could accept mail-in ballots until Nov. 6. On top of that, Pennsylvania law prohibited election officials from beginning to count ballots before 7 a.m. on Election Day.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said Wednesday that delays in counting might prevent a result announcement that day. As of 8 a.m., election officials said 1.4 million mail-in ballots had yet to be counted.
In Michigan, there were over 3 million ballots cast by mail, NBC News reported. Several jurisdictions there did not begin processing those ballots until Election Day.
Claims that Pennsylvania stopped counting votes are false
False claims that Philadelphia stopped counting ballots began spreading on social media Tuesday night. Investigative reporter Max M. Marin sparked confusion when he tweeted, “No more mail ballot results tonight.”
Marin later deleted the tweet and addressed the confusion in a thread.
“Philadelphia City Commissioners say there will be no additional update on mail ballot votes tonight,” he wrote. “Ballot counting has NOT stopped. It goes on 24-7.”
Philadelphia City Commissioners say there will be no additional update on mail ballot votes tonight.
Ballot counting has NOT stopped. It goes on 24-7.
“It’s just a reporting issue, it’s not a counting issue” pic.twitter.com/SFAyWaDpm3
— Max M. Marin (@MaxMMarin) November 4, 2020
However, the New York Post had already picked up the story and sourced his tweet. The headline: “Philadelphia stops counting mail-in ballots for the night”.
A Philadelphia City commissioner attempted to clear up confusion on Twitter at 3:04 a.m. Wednesday.
“Philadelphia will NOT stop counting ALL legitimate votes cast by eligible voters,” wrote Commission Al Schmidt. “And we will report and report and report until the last vote is counted.”
Philadelphia will NOT stop counting ALL legitimate votes cast by eligible voters. And we will report and report and report until the last vote is counted. See for yourself: https://t.co/El2XfWKxQw
— Commissioner Al Schmidt (@Commish_Schmidt) November 4, 2020
Schmidt urged his following to see for themselves and shared a link to the Philadelphia City Commissioners' livestream of vote counting.
Thursday morning, after the post was made, New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel tweeted that Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, is taking the day off for "administrative work" and won't resume counting until Friday. Bethany Hallam, a member of the county elections board, told Gabriel she did not have an answer as to why. Other Pennsylvania counties are still counting, though.
Other states are still counting, too
While not run by a Democrat, Georgia also had a delay. In Fulton County, Georgia, election officials briefly paused counting after a pipe burst, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jessica Corbitt, director of external affairs for the county, told the Journal-Constitution that 74,000 absentee ballots were tabulated and included in reported results Tuesday night.
The Detroit Free Press reported that people were counting votes overnight, and Michigan Secretary of State spokeswoman Tracy Wimmer told PolitiFact that "at no point has the counting process stopped since it began at 7 a.m. yesterday (Tuesday) morning, which was when, per Michigan election law, it could begin." Michigan's governor is Democrat Gretchen Whitmer.
North Carolina, led by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, stopped counting votes overnight, but not because of Trump – it ran out of votes to count.
"North Carolina stopped counting votes on election night because there were no more votes to count at that time," State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said during a news conference on Wednesday. "There are also no more ballots that can be cast for election. All eligible ballots have already left the voters' hands."
That the votes are taking longer than a day to count is not evidence of election meddling. No state is legally expected to report final results on election night, and no state ever has, the New York Times reported. Pennsylvania mail-in ballots received within three days of Nov. 3 will count, though litigation may change that, according to the Associated Press.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim that Democrat-led states stopped counting votes on election night without reason and when Trump was ahead as FALSE because it was not supported by our research. Mail-in ballots mean longer count times, meaning many states counted overnight. Reports of delays or stoppages in counting were either explained or false based on miscommunication.
Our fact-check sources:
YouTube, Philadelphia City Commissioners, Nov. 3, "Philadelphia City Commissioners Live Stream"
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov. 3, Fulton County election results delayed after pipe bursts in room with ballots
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, retrieved Nov. 4, UPDATES: Few absentee ballots rejected as Georgia counts votes
Detroit Free Press, retrieved Nov. 4, Michigan Election 2020 live updates: Detroit expects to finish absentee ballot count by 6 p.m.
New York Times, Nov. 1, We Have Never Had Final Results on Election Day
Associated Press, Oct. 29, Late-arriving mail-in ballots count in Pennsylvania, for now
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No, vote counting in Democrat-led states hasn't stopped