The claim: 52% of John Fetterman’s votes were mail-in ballots
Democratic Sen.-elect John Fetterman beat out Republican challenger Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s senatorial election on Nov. 8. Some social media users are claiming more than half of the votes for Fetterman came in the form of a mail-in ballot.
“52% of Fetterman’s votes were mail-in ballots,” reads text included in a Nov. 10 Instagram post. “Do you understand what they do know?”
The claim was also widely shared on Twitter, where one iteration received more than 11,000 retweets.
But only a third of Fetterman’s votes were from mail-in ballots, not more than half. And election security officials largely agree that mail-in voting is safe and secure, despite the post’s implication.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media user who shared the post for comment.
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Mail-in ballots are secure
As of Nov. 18, election returns showed Fetterman won the Pennsylvania Senate race with 2,719,577 votes, 953,045 of which were mail-in ballots, according to Pennsylvania’s Department of State.
That means a little more than 35% of Fetterman’s votes came from mail-in ballots, not 52% as social media users are claiming.
An increasing number of voters have opted to mail in their ballots. More than 43% of voters voted by mail in 2020, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s up from 21% of voters in 2016 and 13% in 2004.
Despite what social media users claimed, multiple election security experts have told USA TODAY that mail-in voting is secure, and security measures exist throughout the voting process to ensure its integrity.
“Instances of mail voting fraud are vanishingly rare,” Rebecca Green, co-director of the Election Law Program at William & Mary Law School, previously told USA TODAY via email. “Several states vote exclusively by mail and have numerous security processes in place to detect and deter fraud.”
Once completed, mail-in ballots are returned in nested envelopes that contain verification data, a signature and a serial number or bar code, providing another safeguard for election integrity, Bellovin wrote.
These security measures allows election officials to match signatures or identification numbers on the ballot’s envelope before a ballot is opened, according to Bellovin.
Not only do experts agree that voting by mail is safe, but a 2020 study found expanding mail-in voting increases voter access and discourages adversaries from interfering with elections.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that 52% of John Fetterman’s votes were mail-in ballots. Fetterman won with 35% of his votes coming from mail-in ballots. Election officials say mail-in voting is safe and secure.
Our fact-check sources:
- Pennsylvania Department of State, accessed Nov. 18, 2022 General Election
- USA TODAY, Nov. 8, Fact check: False claim that mail-in voting is connected to bad actors, fraudulent ballots
- USA TODAY, Nov. 14, Fact check: 2022 midterm election was secure, contrary to claim of mail-in ballot fraud
- U.S. Census Bureau, accessed Nov. 17, Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2020
- Columbia News, Oct. 23, 2020, Mail-in Ballots Are Secure, Confidential, and Trustworthy
- Wiley Online Library, Jan. 24, Evaluating mail-based security for electoral processes using attack trees
- Rebecca Green, Nov. 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Contributing: Sudiksha Kochi
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