The claim: Photos show 2022 midterm election ballots found in the trash in locations across the country
Though the midterm elections have concluded, false claims of voter fraud continue to spread on social media. Some users are sharing photos they claim show ballots recently found in the trash across the country.
A screenshot of a tweet shared on Instagram features two photos of ballots and assorted mail lying on the ground.
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“ELECTION22: From L.A. County, California to Chavez County, New Mexico, garbage collectors report finding thousands of midterm ballots in trash at hundreds of locations,” reads the tweet.
The Nov. 9 Instagram post adds the caption, “Nothing to see here.”
But these pictures aren’t what the poster claims. The pictures were captured during two separate incidents in 2020, taking place in New Jersey, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The perpetrators responsible have been arrested and charged. The photos have nothing to do with the 2022 midterms, and one didn’t even involve stolen ballots.
USA TODAY reached out to the Instagram user who shared the post for comment but was unable to contact the Twitter user.
Photos date back to 2020
The first picture was published in a 2021 NBC26 article, which reported that three trays of mail had been found on the side of the road in Greenville, Wisconsin, in September 2020. The incident was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which ultimately found there were no ballots among the stolen mail, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Two men from St. Paul, Minnesota, were charged with stealing mail in the Twin Cities that they ultimately dumped along the Wisconsin roadside, according to a 2021 Department of Justice press release. The statement said they stole mail in an effort to find items of value and personal identification information.
The second photo was published in a 2020 CNN article about a mail carrier arrested for dumping more than 1,000 pieces of mail in dumpsters in New Jersey. The mail contained 99 general election ballots, according to the article.
The mail carrier was charged with desertion of mail and faced up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to the Department of Justice.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that photos show 2022 midterm election ballots found in the trash in locations across the country. The pictures aren’t from 2022, and one doesn’t even involve stolen ballots. The pictures were captured during two separate incidents in 2020, taking place in New Jersey, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The perpetrators responsible were arrested and charged.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, accessed Nov. 15, Elections
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 1, 2020, Mail found in Greenville ditch did not include any Wisconsin ballots
- Pioneer Press, July 31, 2021, Two Ramsey County men sentenced for 2020 postal crime spree
- NBC26, Feb. 19, 2021, Authorities release photos of mail, including ballots, found in ditch last year
- CNN, Oct. 7, 2020, DOJ charges mail carrier for dumping mail and ballots in New Jersey dumpsters
- United States Department of Justice, May 27, 2021, Postal Employee Admits Dumping Mail, Including Election Ballots Sent to West Orange Residents
- United States Department of Justice, July 30, 2021, Two Ramsey County Men Sentenced to Prison for Twin Cities Postal Crime Spree
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