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Fact Checking More Claims About the 2020 Presidential Election in Georgia
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Fact Checking More Claims About the 2020 Presidential Election in Georgia

Former President Donald Trump continues to make false statements.

Last Thursday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis requested a special grand jury to assist with an investigation into Donald Trump’s possible interference in the 2020 presidential election. Earlier this month, Willis told the Associated Press that the investigation would include Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger from January 2, 2021. 

During the phone call, which we fact checked, Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the election results in Georgia, which Joe Biden won by 11,779 votes. As we noted, the Washington Post released a recording of the phone call in which Trump recycled familiar, baseless claims of voter fraud.

In response to Willis’ request for a special grand jury, Trump released a statement defending his call with Raffensperger, describing it as “perfect.”

He claims that he “didn’t say anything wrong in the call” and that he made it  to “look into the massive voter fraud fraud which took place in Georgia.” As we explained, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Georgia, and Trump repeatedly brought up instances of “fraud” without evidence. 

At one point on the call Trump made reference to a long-debunked rumor about ballots that were supposedly “shredded.” In Trump’s words: “And they supposedly shredded I think they said 300 pounds of—3,000 pounds of ballots.” Trump is likely referencing a situation in Cobb County in which a viral video supposedly showed “ballots being destroyed,” by a shredding truck. But here’s what actually happened. The Board of Elections and Registration in Cobb County explained that it’s typical for the shredding company to dispose of “of non relevant materials that cannot be easily disposed of.” 

Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler also noted in November 2020: “‘None of these items are relevant to the election or the re-tally. Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file. After an out-of-context video was shared on social media we contacted state officials to reassure them this was a routine clean-up operation and they could come to inspect our stored materials if they wished.’”

In his statement, Trump also refers to “ballot harvesting” in Fulton County: “They are looking into ballot harvesting in Fulton County, after supposedly watching tapes of it actually taking place. This alone could be tens of thousands of votes.” 

Ballot harvesting, which takes place when a third party collects and returns absentee or mail-in ballots on behalf of voters, is illegal in Georgia. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that allegations of ballot harvesting in Georgia stem from Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer and the conservative organization True the Vote. They alleged in September 2021 that “GPS data identified 279 cellphones that had made multiple trips to within 100 feet of ballot drop boxes between Oct. 1 and Jan. 5.”

But the head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation determined that there was not enough evidence to pursue an investigation, and the supposed “source” for these claims never came forward. But Raffensperger’s office is investigating.

In November 2021, True the Vote filed a complaint with Raffensperger’s office, making the same allegation of ballot harvesting. According to USA Today, True the Vote claimed that it had “video footage of people collecting and delivering absentee ballots, as well as an interview with an unnamed man who alleges he was paid thousands of dollars to collect and submit ballots during the November election 2020 according to a Jan 4 report from Just The News, a site that has previously shared misinformation about Georgia’s 2020 election.” 

USA Today also reported that: “The Just the News article notes that True the Vote ‘does not allege the ballots delivered by couriers were fraudulent,’ which Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has reiterated as well.”

During an appearance on the “John Solomon Reports” podcast from Just The News, Raffensperger said an analysis by the not-for-profit MITRE Corporation showed “no anomalies” and “no suspicious indicators of ballot harvesting.”

But Raffensperger told The National Desk on January 12 that his office wants more information about the complaint: “This information was provided to us and they said there’s a witness, a ‘John Doe.’ And so we’re looking at subpoenaing that person to get the information.”

A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office told the Dispatch Fact Check via email: “When the secretary of state’s office receives an election complaint, we investigate it.”

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Khaya Himmelman is a fact checker for The Dispatch. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Barnard College.