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Some conservative activists have advocated for decertifying ballots cast in 2020, alleging fraud. But no such decertification process exists, and there’s no evidence of widespread fraud.
Federal law says that elections offices must retain ballots cast in federal races for 22 months. After that date, election officials can destroy ballots.
The roots of the ballot retention rule comes from a civil rights-era law, but it also has the practical effect of freeing storage space for ballots in the next election.
A Facebook post promotes a website that charges people money to send postcards to state legislators so they can "decertify" ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election.
But this postcard strategy is about as effective as sending your Christmas wish list to the North Pole. There is no process to decertify ballots, and there wasn’t widespread fraud in the election.
That hasn’t stopped some conservative activists from pushing this baseless narrative.
One of those activists is Janet Folger Porter, who in May lost a Republican congressional primary in Ohio.
Those five states —– Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan —– were won by Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. The website charges people $25 to send a postcard to Wisconsin, $50 to send to Wisconsin and Arizona and $100 to send to all five.
The site encourages people to send in the postcards by Sept. 4. After that date, election officials are allowed under federal law to destroy 2020 ballots.
But a postcard blitz won’t change these facts: Biden beat Donald Trump. States certified the votes. Congress accepted the results. Biden was sworn in as the president. Voter fraud was minimal — not enough to change the outcome of the election. Judges rejected dozens of lawsuits alleging fraud or seeking to change the outcome.
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.)
The website calls on people to send in postcards by Sept. 4 because a federal law, the Civil Rights Act of 1960, says that election offices must retain ballots cast in federal races, including for president, for 22 months.
A report from a House committee in 1959 explains that the reason for the provision, recommended by the Justice Department, was to protect the right of citizens to vote without discrimination based on race. The department needs access to voting records to investigate discrimination complaints.
The committee pointed to a 1959 case in which state and local government officials in Alabama refused to allow the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to inspect voting and registration records to investigate complaints that citizens were deprived of the right to vote based on race.
In some states targeted by the postcard campaign, local election officials told PolitiFact they view the law as a practical matter because they have only so much storage space. Once the 22 months have passed, election offices routinely shred ballots.
In Milwaukee County, about 465,000 ballots were cast in the November 2020 election, said Michelle Hawley, director of Milwaukee County Election Commission.
"Imagine trying to store all those pieces of paper for an extended period of time — we would run out of room," Hawley said.
Those who float the idea of decertifying ballots are suggesting something that doesn’t exist under the law, said Chris Krebs, the former federal cybersecurity official whom Trump fired.
"Here’s the thing: you’re the mark," Krebs tweeted in 2021. "They want your money, they want your rage, they want you turning out, protesting, & threatening officials. You’re a pawn. Nothing more."
The decertify fraud website is run by Porter and a group called The America Project, launched by Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of the online furniture retailer Overstock.com. Byrne donated millions of dollars to the Cyber Ninjas firm that conducted the Republican-led review of votes in Arizona’s Maricopa County. Byrne has also donated money to a group run by Jim Marchant of Nevada, who is part of a national slate of Republicans running to operate elections while parroting Trump’s falsehoods about voter fraud.
We did not get a response from the website when we asked for evidence that the postcards could lead to decertifying ballots. As of Aug. 15, the website showed that 527 postcards had been sent to lawmakers.
If people truly want to send a letter to a lawmaker suggesting an idea that doesn’t exist in law, they could do that for free in an email. This postcard invitation appears to be a strategy to help people who promote election falsehoods raise more money.
A Facebook post invites people to "send your postcards to 5 key states to decertify fraud" in the 2020 election.
People can send the postcards, but it won’t have the impact they want because there is no such thing as decertifying the election.
States have certified the 2020 election results. There is no evidence that widespread fraud occurred.
We rate this statement Pants on Fire.
PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this fact-check.
Janet Folger Porter, Facebook post, Aug. 3, 2022
Decertifyfraud.com, Accessed Aug. 15, 2022
Faith 2 Action, Accessed Aug. 15, 2022
Open Secrets, Trump-tied ‘dark money’ groups funding Arizona ballot review, June 9, 2021
Brennan Center, Financing of Races for Offices that Oversee Elections: August 2022
In Re Wallace, 170 F. Supp. 63 (M.D. Ala. 1959)
PolitiFact, Republican leaders have made clear they don’t think Wisconsin’s electoral votes can be rescinded, Feb. 28, 2022
Chris Krebs, Tweet, Sept. 24, 2021
House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Report 956, Aug. 20, 1959
Jonathan Marks, Deputy Secretary for Elections and Commissions for Pennsylvania, Letter to county election officials, July 26, 2022
Email interview, Tracy Wimmer, spokesperson for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Aug. 15, 2022
Email interview, Matthew Weil, executive director in the Democracy Program at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Aug. 12, 2022
Email interview, Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Former career was Director of Elections in Michigan from 1981 – 2017, Aug. 12, 2022
Telephone interview, Michelle Hawley, director of Milwaukee County Election Commission, Aug. 10, 2022
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