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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher November 6, 2020

It wasn’t 'cheating' that Calif. collected ballots after state called for Biden

If Your Time is short

  • A video shows standard collection of ballots from dropoff boxes on Nov. 4, the day after Election Day. Those ballots  were processed and counted after Election Day.

A TikTok account suggested there was "cheating" for Joe Biden in California because some ballots weren’t collected until he had already been declared the winner in that state over President Donald Trump.

The post relied on a widely circulated video filmed Nov. 4 — the day after the election and the day after Biden had been declared the winner in California. 

The post was headlined: "This video was just taken (11/04) by a friend in California. The cheating is unreal!!!"

A slightly shorter version of the video was also shared in a Facebook post on Nov. 4. That poster wrote: "This is today" in Reseda, which is a neighborhood in Los Angeles.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

California did collect ballots on Nov. 4. 

It was standard procedure, not any sign of cheating, to collect and then count ballots from drop boxes on Nov. 4.

The video

As shared on TikTok, the minute-long video shows two men loading hundreds of paper items from a box into satchels. The box is on a sidewalk on what appears to be a residential street. It’s not apparent where or when the video was recorded. 

Here’s the exchange between the woman and one of the men.

Woman: "Are you guys collecting ballots?"

Man: "Yeah."

Woman: "I thought they collected them all. I just want to document."

Man: "No, we’re still collecting."

Woman: "Wait, how come they already called the state?"

Man: "Because these are mail-in ballots."

(The box does appear to be a drop box for ballots, not a mailbox.)

Woman: "Are there a ton in there?"

Man: "Yeah."

The woman then asks the men if they are "official election guys," and one of them shows her a badge clipped to his shirt. What’s on the badge is not visible. There’s a sign on the box they’re collecting from, but what it says is not visible, either.

Woman: "Where do you guys take them?"

Man: "Election Center."

Woman: "Is that in the government building?"

Man: "LA County."

Official responses

The day after the posting, the office of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk responded to a posting of the video on Twitter, saying:

"All Drop Boxes were closed and locked at 8 p.m. on Election Night and ballots were collected the following day. These are valid ballots that will be processed and counted during the post-election canvass — like all outstanding vote-by-mail ballots."

A spokeswoman for the California Secretary of State told PolitiFact the video showed ballot collection in Reseda.

The Associated Press and other media called California for Biden just after California polls closed Nov. 3. The AP said it declared Biden the winner of California as soon as polls closed in the state, "even though election officials there had yet to release any results from Tuesday’s presidential contest. The news agency did so after results from AP VoteCast and an analysis of early voting statistics confirmed expectations that the state’s longstanding political trend in favor of Democratic presidential candidates will hold."

As of the morning of Nov. 6, Biden had more than 8.24 million votes in California — 65.1% of the vote — to Trump’s 4.17 million, according to the Secretary of State.

Our ruling

A poster on TikTok claiming, "The cheating is unreal," shared a video widely circulated on social media that appeared to show California ballots being collected the day after the election, after the state was called for Biden.

In fact, it’s standard procedure in California to collect and process ballots from drop boxes after Election Day. A county official said the boxes were locked at 8 p.m. on election night. The video did not depict any cheating.

We rate the claim False.

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


Our Sources

TikTok, post, Nov. 5, 2020

Facebook, post, Nov. 4, 2020

Twitter, tweet, Nov. 5, 2020

Reuters, "Fact check: Video shows collection of valid mail-in ballots that were posted on or before Election Day," Nov. 6, 2020

Email, California Secretary of State spokeswoman Jenna Dresner, Nov. 5, 2020

Email, Email, Denis Teyssou, editorial manager, AFP Medialab, Nov. 6, 2020

Email, Matthew Stamm, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and leader of Drexel’s Multimedia and Information Security Lab, Nov. 6, 2020

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It wasn’t 'cheating' that Calif. collected ballots after state called for Biden

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