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Fact Check-Claims that 17,690 ballot images from the 2020 Presidential election are missing in Fulton County, Georgia

Correction July 28, 2022: A previous version of this article stated there was no evidence that 17,690 ballot images were missing in Fulton County, Georgia. Fulton County said some files were not maintained after 2020, but claimed this was not required by the law at the time. This correction changes headline and lede, removes verdict, edits paragraph 8, adds paragraphs 9-13 to include new statements from Fulton County and links to the Georgia Rule pertaining to storage of results for primaries and elections.)

More than a year after U.S. President Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, social media users are claiming “17,690 ballot images” are missing in Fulton County, Georgia. County officials told Reuters they recounted all ballots from the general election three times. This July 2022 update includes new statements in paragraphs 9-13.

Examples can be seen  here  ,  here  and  here  .

The text in one post reads: “All in-person ballot images are MISSING in Fulton County, GA. Fulton is also missing 17,690 mail-in ballot images – which alone is more than the entire margin in Georgia.”

Some posts include a clip of a press conference given by Garland Favorito, an activist who led the lawsuit against Fulton County alleging election fraud, discussed  here  . The full video can be seen on YouTube here , where Favorito makes the claim that 17,690 ballot images are missing from Fulton County.

One America News Network journalist Christina Bobb said in a tweet (here) on Nov. 9, 2021: “ALL in person ballot images in GA are missing. 17,690 mail in ballot images are missing. This is FRAUD. So, GA has no way to verify that the ballots are legitimate reflections of what went through the machines.”

Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, responded to the tweet (here) by saying: “Nothing other than the first count, the hand re-tally, and then the recount. This is a lie…and a truly dumb one at that. They have all of the actual ballots that have been counted 3 times.”

The office of Georgia Secretary of State sent the following statement by Raffensperger to Reuters via email: “Georgia votes with paper ballots, and all of the actual paper ballots from November’s election were counted three times, including a 100 percent hand recount in which teams of poll workers touched and saw every vote cast. There is zero doubt that three counts of the ballots resulted in conclusive results on who won the election in Georgia. Wishful thinking by conspiracy theorists cannot change the outcome, no matter what immaterial technicality they claim to have identified this week.”

Favorito directed Reuters to his website (archive.ph/Au355 ).

In June 2022, Professor of Statistics at Berkeley Philip B. Stark shared a declaration with Reuters (here) (see paragraph 63) where he says, “Fulton County did not produce the image file corresponding to every cast vote record” and “17,852 image files are missing.”

Fulton County officials told Reuters in July 2022 that, “At the time, the law did NOT require that the files be maintained, meaning, there were no requirements or guidelines to maintain ballot images from the ICP scanner used for advance voting and election day before the November 2020 election.” They added that, “Once the law was subsequently clarified, Fulton County complied with keeping the files from then on.”

Georgia Rule 183-1-12-.13 containing sections (a), (b) and (c) and pertaining to the storage of ballot returns in state elections and primaries can be seen (here). It was amended in October and November 2021, adding sections (a)(1) and (a)(2) for further clarification.

Michael T. Morley, Sheila M. McDevitt Professor of Law at Florida State University College of Law, explained to Reuters, “it appears that, at the time of the 2020 election, nothing in Rule 183-1-12-.13 expressly required election officials themselves to keep either the original electronic ballot images, or an electronic copy of them, after the period for requesting a recount had elapsed to make them available for public inspection.” 

He told Reuters the amended rule now “appears to resolve any potential ambiguity or uncertainty about the scope of election officials’ obligation to themselves retain a copy of ballot images.”  

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .         

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