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Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping on legal challenges to vote counting in Pennsylvania, Saturday Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP/John Minchillo) Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping on legal challenges to vote counting in Pennsylvania, Saturday Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP/John Minchillo)

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping on legal challenges to vote counting in Pennsylvania, Saturday Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP/John Minchillo)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg November 13, 2020

Giuliani’s false claim of more than 600,000 unlawful votes in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia

If Your Time is short

  • The Pennsylvania Department of State said there’s no evidence of fraud or illegality in the 2020 election.

  • Giuliani’s figure amounts to over 40% of ballots cast in the two cities. He offered no explanation for how so many votes could have been cast unlawfully.

  • Observers from both parties watched the counts. No court has agreed with complaints that Republican observers were denied access to vote counts.

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Joe Biden got about 54,000 more votes than President Donald Trump. Some Trump supporters reject that tally, claiming without evidence that tens or even hundreds of thousands of ballots were counted illegitimately.

"It’s more like 600,000 plus unlawful votes in Philly and Pitt," Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani tweeted Nov. 11.

We reached out to Giuliani’s communications director to ask where he got his number  and did not hear back.

The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, says the former New York mayor’s claim is unfounded. We found no rationale or explanation for how so many votes could have been fraudulently cast.

"There is no factual basis for this claim," said agency communications director Wanda Murren. "Allegations of fraud and illegal activity have been repeatedly debunked and dismissed by the courts."

A U.S. District Court judge rebuffed a GOP suit that claimed Republican observers had been unfairly barred from certain areas of the Philadelphia Convention Center where mailed ballots were counted. Pressed by the judge, Republicans acknowledged that they did have representatives on the scene.

Democrats and Republicans then established more detailed ground rules for how many party representatives would observe the count.

Featured Fact-check

A combined total of 1,409,483 votes were cast in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the state’s two largest cities. Guiliani’s statement suggests that over 40% of them were illegal. His 600,000 figure is roughly equal to the entire number of mail-in ballots that were cast for Biden in the two cities.

The state Republican Party is challenging a state Supreme Court ruling that allowed for counting mailed ballots that arrive within three days after polls closed on Election Day. State election officials said about 10,000 mail ballots were received during those three days. The state has kept those ballots separate, pending a resolution of the GOP challenge. The state did not include them in tallies that led the state to be called for Biden.

Some have suggested that many ballots were counted without legally required oversight. We recently rated False a claim along those lines from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and debunked a claim from Trump that Republican observers were barred. We found no evidence that ballots were inappropriately cast or that observers were barred from watching.

The Pennsylvania law that established mail-in voting and allows observers to be present when mail ballots are opened and recorded was passed by a Republican Legislature.

"Any laws around poll watchers apply equally to both major parties and any third parties," said Suzanne Almeida, interim executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. "I have seen no evidence that one party’s poll watchers have been treated any differently than the other."

Our ruling

Giuliani said over 600,000 votes were unlawful in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. There is no evidence to back that up.

Pennsylvania law allows representatives from both parties to observe the count, and Republicans in the state told a judge that they did have monitors in the room.

Pennsylvania’s Department of State denied that any votes were improperly counted.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

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

Our Sources

Rudy Giuliani, tweet, Nov.11, 2020

Pennsylvania Department of State, tweet, Nov. 5, 2020

Pennsylvania Department of State, Philadelphia unofficial results, accessed Nov. 12, 2020

Pennsylvania Department of State, Allegheny County unofficial results, accessed Nov. 12, 2020

Pennsylvania Department of State, CANVASSING SEGREGATED MAIL-IN AND CIVILIAN ABSENTEE BALLOTS, Nov.1, 2020

USA Today, Most Republican lawsuits challenging election results in battleground states haven't gone far, Nov. 10, 2020

WHYY, Federal judge dismisses Trump’s attempt to stop vote counting in Philadelphia, Nov. 5, 2020

WHYY, Philly and Pa. continue to count votes as presidential contest hangs in the balance, Nov. 4, 2020

PolitiFact, Ted Cruz falsely claims Philadelphia is counting votes in ‘shroud of darkness’, Nov. 6, 2020

PolitiFact, Trump’s wrong claim that election observers were barred in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nov. 6, 2020

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More by Jon Greenberg

Giuliani’s false claim of more than 600,000 unlawful votes in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia

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