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‘Election Fraud is Real, and It’s Happening Right Now’

Claim

A photograph shows mail-in votes discarded on the side of the road and in a dumpster in November 2020.

Rating

Decontextualized

Reporting

On November 4 2020, Twitter user @KAGWAR2020 shared the following images of mail on the side of the road, labeling them “evidence” of “election fraud” (archived):

https://twitter.com/KAGWAR2020/status/1324064583355494400

The account shared four images, described going clockwise:

  1. Neat piles of mail beside a dumpster;
  2. Twelve “United States Postal Service” mail crates stacked on the median of a road;
  3. Six or seven pieces of mail originating with the Los Angeles County Clerk;
  4. Roughly twelve yellow envelopes in dirt,  with one under a rock.

All of the images were presented with only the nine words of the tweet — “… election fraud is real[,] and it’s happening right now,” which the @KAGWAR2020 account heavily implied represented fraudulent suppression of mail-in ballots in the 2020 election.

The first image was from October 2020, and it showed mail allegedly discarded by United States Postal Service worker Nicholas Beauchene. On October 7 2020, the United States Department of Justice issued a press release about Beauchene’s arrest, noting that the mail was recovered and routed to intended recipients:

Approximately 1,875 pieces of mail – including 627 pieces of first class, 873 pieces of standard class, two pieces of certified mail, 99 general election ballots destined for residents in West Orange, and 276 campaign flyers from local candidates for West Orange Town Council and Board of Education – were recovered from dumpsters in North Arlington and West Orange on Oct. 2, 2020, and Oct. 5, 2020. The mail had been scheduled to be delivered on Sept. 28, Oct. 1, and Oct. 2, 2020, to addresses on certain postal routes in Orange and West Orange. On the delivery dates for which mail was recovered, Beauchene was the only mail carrier assigned to deliver mail to the addresses on the recovered mail.

The recovered mail was placed back into the mail stream for delivery to its intended recipients. Copies of the recovered mail were made and retained as evidence.

The delay of mail charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction of mail charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Per a report, prosecutors do not believe that his motives were political.

The second image of mail stacked on a median was highly misleading and entirely irrelevant, as it was taken from an October 2018 Philadelphia-area incident:

A photo of the discarded mail was posted [in 2018] on Facebook by a 40-year-old Camden resident who made the discovery in the 3900 block of River Road in Pennsauken. The post generated more than 3,500 shares and nearly 240 comments [in the days after it was initially shared].

That image was popular on a #StopTheSteal group hosted on Gab.com, but readers there also noted the photograph was taken in 2018.

The third image in the set (on the bottom left of the tweet appeared to be a screenshot from video published at some juncture on the website of KCAL-TV. We were unable to substantiate the claim that it represented any evidence of “election fraud,” and the only iterations of it we located were typically grouped with the other three images.

The fourth and final image appeared in a WNYW news article about “stolen ballots” recovered by a farm worker in Glendale, Arizona. According to the story, the ballots had not been received by recipients, and as such they had not been completed or registered as votes for any specific candidate:

Officials with the Glendale Police Department say that a worker at a farm found a number of stolen ballots in late October [2020].

According to a statement released by police officials on their Facebook page on Nov. 3 [2020], 18 early election ballots were found underneath some concrete and rocks at a farm near 99th Avenue and Glendale by a man named Brayan Ruiz.

WNYW reported that once again, the ballots were located and distributed to intended recipients:

The ballots, according to police, were handed over to the intended recipients on Halloween [October 31 2020] by a Glendale Police officer, as well as two Attorney General’s Special Agents.

“Each resident said they were aware their early election ballots had not arrived. Some went in person to vote early, and others had not voted yet. We were able to distribute them in time, to provide voters the opportunity to at least fill them out at home and then drop them off to a polling location,” read a portion of the post.

“According to investigators, the ballots were stolen from individual mailboxes in a neighborhood just south of 107th and Northern avenues (in between Vista Avenue and Kaler Drive). The envelopes were still sealed,” read a portion of a statement released by officials with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

In each instance, the images lacked context, and none appeared to involve intercepted, completed ballots:

  1. Neat piles of mail beside a dumpster: Mail recovered and re-routed to intended recipients in October 2020;
  2. Twelve “United States Postal Service” mail crates stacked on the median of a road: Image taken from an unrelated October 2018 Facebook post;
  3. Six or seven pieces of mail originating with the Los Angeles County Clerk: Photograph of unknown origin from a KCAL9.com video, which does not appear to show votes cast;
  4. Roughly twelve yellow envelopes in dirt, one under a rock: Mail recovered in Glendale, Arizona and re-routed to intended recipients.

A tweet from an account called @KAGWAR2020’s alleging that “election fraud is real” and “it’s happening right now” was both popular and widely shared on Twitter, but three of its four images were either old or out of context. In the three images with a confirmed backstory, mail was recovered and received by intended recipients. In validated instances involving 2020 general election ballots, the disrupted mail did not appear to involve any completed ballots or votes cast for any candidate. Finally, none of the images involved ballots clearly cast for any specific candidate, nor any attempts to divert votes on behalf of or for any specific individual.