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Election challengers observe as ballots are counted at the central counting board on Nov. 4, 2020, in Detroit. (AP) Election challengers observe as ballots are counted at the central counting board on Nov. 4, 2020, in Detroit. (AP)

Election challengers observe as ballots are counted at the central counting board on Nov. 4, 2020, in Detroit. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 10, 2022

No, this video on Facebook doesn't show someone 'counting Biden’s votes at 2 a.m.'

If Your Time is short

  • While some election offices in 2020 continued to process and count ballots overnight after the polls closed, that is a sign of a routine process and not fraud.
  • The Facebook user who shared the video said it was a joke.

A Facebook post that features a video viewed millions of times appears to suggest that someone is rapid fire counting ballots cast for President Joe Biden.

The seven-second video shows a person’s hand gripping a machine as it zips its way down a massive stack of paper. 

The caption under the video states: "Counting Biden's votes at 2am 😂 I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist but I have to admit this was funny."

This 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 video was posted by Steve West, founder of Steve’s Outdoor Adventures in Oregon. West told us that someone sent the video to him and that he posted it as a joke. West told us that he thought the equipment in the video was a belt sander.

"It’s just satire — don’t take it seriously," West said. "I took it for what it was: a funny joke, a cool video. It’s for entertainment’s sake. I didn’t realize it inflamed some people and made them angry."

Some commenters did see it as a joke, but plenty of others saw it as a sign of election wrongdoing. The phrase "counting Biden’s votes at 2 a.m." feeds into the falsehoods that election workers in 2020 "found" votes for Biden or in Democratic strongholds such as Detroit in the middle of the night. 

The fact that election workers process and count ballots late at night is not a sign of fraud. It is routine ballot tabulation. The process took longer in some jurisdictions in 2020 due to the surge in voting by mail. It also takes time for election workers to verify and process mail ballots before they are tabulated.

So what is happening in the video?

The video appears to show a machine removing stubs off of sheets of paper. Based on the color and size, they are not ballots; election officials and experts told us they knew of no election office that used such a machine for ballots.

"I've never seen any power tool like that used in any stage of ballot processing," said Douglas W. Jones, an expert on voting systems and a retired computer science professor at the University of Iowa. "If I were in the ballot processing business, I wouldn't let anyone go near ballots with a machine like that!"

Election officials in Alabama and Michigan, two states that use ballots with perforated stubs, said they don’t use such a machine for stub removal. 

In Michigan, Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope said that election workers remove the perforated stub on the ballot by hand before the ballot is fed into a tabulator. 

The paper in the video appears yellow, but in Michigan the ballots are white, Swope said. And absentee ballots, which are folded, are not as flat as the paper in the video. Another election expert noted the red stripe on parts of the paper, which isn’t a typical part of ballots.

Jones said the strips being torn off appear to be about 8 inches long, "consistent with the bottom edge of a ballot but equally consistent with the bottom edge of just about any billing form."

An election equipment vendor, Election Systems and Software, told us that the machine in the video is not something they use, and to their knowledge it has nothing to do with ballots. But it appears to be a paper stripper used to get rid of excess paper in a stack. Here is an example of a waste paper/carton stripper on YouTube. 

We found the same video as the one West posted in a few YouTube videos shared in February. Based on the titles that called it the "amazing magic machine" and "#satisfying," it appears users just found the machine mesmerizing. 

We don’t know the details about the type of paper in this video, but we know that it doesn’t show counting ballots for Biden at 2 a.m. We rate this statement False.

PolitiFact staff writer Gabrielle Settles contributed research to this fact-check.

RELATED: Fact-checks about elections

RELATED: A claim about serial numbers on ballots is misguided

 

Our Sources

Steve West, Facebook post, March 3, 2022

Cartostrip, Videos, Accessed March 10, 2022

YouTube, Video, Jan. 16, 2015

YouTube, Video, Feb. 1, 2022

YouTube, Video, Feb. 23, 2022

YouTube, Video, Feb. 23, 2022

PolitiFact, Election workers didn’t ‘find’ Biden votes overnight. They counted and reported mail in ballots, Nov. 10, 2020

PolitiFact, Social media post falsely claims Wisconsin 'found' 112,000 votes at 3 a.m., Nov. 4, 2020 

Email interview, Chris Swope, Lansing City Clerk, March 9, 2022

Email interview, Tracy Wimmer, Michigan Secretary of State spokesperson, March 9, 2022

Email interview, Cameron Mixon, spokesperson for Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill, March 9, 2022

Email interview, Katina Granger, Election Systems & Software spokesperson, March 10, 2022

Email interview, Tammy Patrick, senior advisor at the Democracy Fund, March 9, 2022

Email interview, Douglas W. Jones, retired computer science professor at the University of Iowa, March 9, 2022

Telephone interview, Steve West, founder of Steve’s Outdoor Adventures, March 10, 2022

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No, this video on Facebook doesn't show someone 'counting Biden’s votes at 2 a.m.'

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