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Trust Index: Are ‘illegal’ votes being counted?

A Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, election worker canvases ballots that arrived after the close of voting until 5 p.m. as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3.
A Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, election worker canvases ballots that arrived after the close of voting until 5 p.m. as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3. (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

As election officials in states across the country continue releasing vote totals for the presidential election, some claim that ballots counted after Election Day must be illegal. It’s no wonder so many people feel that way because President Donald Trump also makes that claim.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump said during a briefing at the White House on Thursday. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.” On election night, the president said: “This is a fraud on the American public, this is an embarrassment to our country.”

The has president tweeted many times in the days after the election, including saying, “I easily win the Presidency of the United States with legal votes cast.”

Supporters began rallying with the cry “Stop the Count" the day after voting stopped, but changed the messaging to “Stop the Steal” when they realized that the votes already counted would give Vice President Joe Biden enough votes to win the Electoral College and be the next president.

Nearly 24 hours after the Associated Press and other news organizations announced Biden would win Pennsylvania and Nevada, putting him over the 270 threshold needed to win, Trump continued to tweet.

Twitter flagged the president’s tweets with the message: "You may not use Twitter services for the purposes of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes.”

Trump’s campaign has launched a flurry of lawsuits in a handful of states and promises more on Monday trying to overturn Biden victories.

What are the facts?

CLAIM: Votes counted after Tuesday are illegal because they did not reach election offices by Election Day and the counting underway right now is not what’s usually expected at this point during an election.

THE FACTS: The Trust Index team at our sister station in Orlando verified that election laws in many states allow votes to be counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, even if they arrive later. Different states also follow a pre-determined order for counting ballots.

In Pennsylvania, Republican-led legislators would not alter existing state law to allow any processing of ballots before Election Day. That meant mail-in ballots couldn’t be canvassed until after the polls opened at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. There were 2.5 million absentee ballots cast and each had to be opened and the voter’s name and signature verified against voter rolls before it could be counted.

For perspective, Florida, which was called for President Trump early Wednesday morning, began processing and canvassing early voting and vote-by-mail ballots 22 days before Election Day. Results of mail ballots and votes cast during two weeks of early voting were released within the first hours after polls closed at 7 p.m. Election Day.

Over the next few days, Florida elections officials continued reviewing and counting mail ballots that arrived on Tuesday, military ballots that are given an extra 10 days to arrive if they are postmarked by Nov. 3, and provisional ballots -- mostly those cast in person by people that could not produce identification.

With Georgia’s razor-thin results, the Georgia Secretary of State could count any absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day which was received until 5 p.m. Friday and nearly 9,000 military and overseas ballots. They also had provisional ballots to review.

“Election workers around the state are working with integrity to ensure every legal ballot is counted,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said.

Among the states that allow mail votes to be legally counted if they are postmarked by Nov. 3 but arrive later is Nevada, where the deadline is 5 p.m. Nov. 10.

After reviewing the facts, the Trust Index team has determined that votes being counted after Election Day are legal, as long as state laws are being followed. Almost every state allows election observers from both parties to watch the process to ensure fairness, although the level of access allowed is one of the items the Trump campaign is contesting in certain states.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

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