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Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy November 3, 2020

No, ballots for Trump weren’t thrown out by a poll worker from Pennsylvania’s Erie County

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  • Erie County elections officials said an Instagram user claiming to be a poll worker who threw out ballots cast for Donald Trump is not actually a poll worker for the county.

Elections officials in Erie County, Pa., have debunked a viral social media claim alleging that a poll worker tossed more than 100 ballots cast for President Donald Trump.

The claim originated with an Instagram user who said they were a poll worker and wrote, "I’ve thrown out over a hundred ballots for Trump already!" The Instagram story was screenshotted and spread widely on Twitter by Mike Coudrey, a self-described activist and entrepreneur.

"Poll worker in Erie County, PA … admitted on Instagram that he has thrown out over 100 pro-Trump ballots," Coudrey wrote in the Nov. 3 tweet, which has since been deleted but was shared widely, including by prominent conservative commentators such as Dinesh D’Souza.

A screenshot of Mike Coudrey's tweet about an Instagram story from a user claiming to be a poll worker in Erie County, Pa.

Another tweet sharing a screenshot of the Instagram story was retweeted by the Trump campaign, fact-checkers at the Dispatch noted. That Twitter user later made a correction.

Similar screenshots have also surfaced in widespread posts on Facebook, where they were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

Featured Fact-check

The alleged admission of ballot tossing did not actually come from a poll worker, however.

"Erie County has checked into the unfortunate claim being shared across social media by someone saying they are working as part of the Erie County Board of Elections and throwing out ballots," Erie County Board of Elections Chair Carl J. Anderson III said in a statement.

"The person making the statements does not work in any way with Erie County or have any part of Erie County’s election process," Anderson wrote, "In fact, the individual is not a registered voter and is not believed to be a resident of Erie County."

A spokesperson for Erie County confirmed to PolitiFact that the statement was in reference to the Instagram story in question. Other reporters and fact-checkers have since noted that the viral Instagram story was a hoax, and that claims about it were inaccurate.

Coudrey told PolitiFact in a Twitter message that he had seen that the county issued its official statement saying the Instagram user was not a poll worker. He also noted that the county’s statement said authorities are investigating the incident for potential criminal charges.

Overall, the claim that an Erie County poll worker threw out over 100 ballots for Trump is based on an Instagram story from a person unaffiliated with the county. It has since been debunked.

We rate the claim False.

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

Our Sources

Mike Coudrey on Twitter, accessed via Nov. 3, 2020

Facebook post, Nov. 3, 2020

Courtney Holland on Twitter, accessed via the Internet Archive Nov. 3, 2020

Erie County Board of Elections,  "Chair of Election Board issues statement following false election claims on social media," Nov. 3, 2020

The Dispatch, "Did a Poll Worker in Pennsylvania Throw Away Trump Ballots?" Nov. 3, 2020

Davey Alba on Twitter, Nov. 3, 2020

Peter J. Hasson on Twitter, Nov. 3, 2020

Courtney Holland on Twitter, Nov. 3, 2020

Twitter message correspondence with Mike Coudrey, Nov. 3, 2020

Phone correspondence with Erie County, Pennsylvania, Nov. 3, 2020

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No, ballots for Trump weren’t thrown out by a poll worker from Pennsylvania’s Erie County

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