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President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Martin) President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Martin)

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Martin)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy January 6, 2021

No evidence Georgia ‘happened to find’ ballots to hurt Republicans in Senate runoff, as Trump claims

If Your Time is short

  • Georgia election workers did not “find” ballots as needed. They reported ballots that were legally cast before the U.S. Senate runoff election as they were counted.

  • Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s Republican voting system implementation manager, rejected President Donald Trump’s claim that the state “happened to find 50,000 ballots.”

  • Trump did not provide evidence to support his tweet, which resembled baseless claims he made about the presidential election he lost to Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump lobbed baseless claims that sought to discredit Georgia’s runoff election, hours after the results showed both Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate ahead.

Decision desks and news outlets have called one race in favor of Democrat Raphael Warnock, who leads Sen. Kelly Loeffler by over 54,000 votes. As of this writing, Democrat Jon Ossoff leads Republican Sen. David Perdue in the second contest, which is closer.

"They just happened to find 50,000 ballots late last night," Trump tweeted Jan. 6. "The USA is embarrassed by fools. Our Election Process is worse than that of third world countries!"

Trump offered no evidence of wrongdoing in the count, and officials PolitiFact spoke to did not find any. 

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s Republican voting system implementation manager, tweeted in response to Trump: "No Mr. President, there weren’t ‘found’ ballots."

"We have known the number of advanced votes since this weekend," Sterling continued. "We saw record Election Day turnout. As of Monday 970,000 absentees had been accepted. 31k more were added in yesterday’s totals. That leaves 60k that came in yesterday."

"We have no clue what he is referring to," Sterling added in an interview with PolitiFact. "They looked at the ballots uploaded overnight, which are ballots we knew about. We talked about it at our last interview around 2 a.m. We don’t find 50,000. You count the 50,000 you had."

In a press conference Jan. 6, Sterling said Trump was undermining faith in the election process. He said officials have known since the weekend that DeKalb County, east of Atlanta, already had about 171,000 early ballots, a point he also made on Twitter the night of the election.

Amber McReynolds, chief executive officer of the National Vote at Home Institute, agreed that there is no evidence that Georgia election workers "happened to find" any improper votes.

"Election officials are following the law and processing ballots. Ballots do not just magically get processed," McReynolds told PolitiFact. "It takes time and people and equipment to process ballots. Georgia officials are following the law and ensuring that every vote cast is counted."

The Trump campaign and White House did not respond to PolitiFact’s inquiries. 

Trump’s comments about Georgia echoed similarly unsubstantiated allegations he lodged about the race he lost to Joe Biden in November. As PolitiFact reported, it’s typical for vote tallies to come in batches as counties report their results.

This happened throughout the night of Georgia’s runoff election, the Associated Press reported

Trump said Georgia "just happened to find" 50,000 votes. That’s a ridiculous and inaccurate way to describe the counting of legally cast ballots. We rate his statement Pants on Fire!

PolitiFact reporter Samantha Putterman contributed to this fact-check.

Our Sources

Donald J. Trump on Twitter, Jan. 6, 2021

Gabriel Sterling press conference, accessed on CNN via TVEyes, Jan. 6, 2021

Gabriel Sterling on Twitter, Jan. 6, 2021

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, "Results," accessed Jan. 6, 2021

The New York Times, "Election Needles: Georgia Senate Runoffs," accessed Jan. 6, 2021

The Associated Press, "AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s false claims on a day of reckoning," Jan. 6, 2021

The Washington Post, "Trump is already inventing false allegations of fraud in Georgia," Jan. 6, 2021

PolitiFact, "No, President Trump, ‘ballot dumps’ in key states were not a magical surprise," Nov. 4, 2020

Text message correspondence with the Georgia secretary of state’s office, Jan. 6, 2021

Phone interview with Gabriel Sterling, voting system implementation manager for the Georgia secretary of state, Jan. 6, 2021

Email interview with Amber McReynolds, chief executive officer of the National Vote at Home Institute, Jan. 6, 2021

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More by Bill McCarthy

No evidence Georgia ‘happened to find’ ballots to hurt Republicans in Senate runoff, as Trump claims

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