FACT CHECK: Viral Image Claims More Mail-In Ballots Were Returned Than Requested In Pennsylvania

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

A viral Instagram post claims Pennsylvania had more mail-in ballots cast than mail-in ballots requested in the 2020 general election.


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A post shared by Mike Coudrey (@michaelcoudrey)

Verdict: False

Over 3 million people requested mail ballots for the 2020 general election, the Pennsylvania governor’s office said in a press release. Data provided by the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s office to the U.S. Elections Project shows that the number of mail ballots returned – over 2.6 million – has not exceeded the number requested in the state.

Fact Check:

The image, which shows a screen grabbed tweet, alleges that Pennsylvania mailed out 1.8 million absentee ballots for the 2020 general election but ultimately counted 2.5 million of them. The Twitter user remarks, “I’m no genius, but I’m pretty sure **700,000** phantom votes is evidence of widespread FRAUD.”

In an Oct. 27 press release, the Pennsylvania governor’s office said over 3 million people applied to vote by mail for the general election. The U.S. Elections Project reports that a total of over 2.6 million mail ballots in Pennsylvania were returned – fewer than the number of mail ballots requested in the state.

Over 1.9 million Democrats and nearly 785,000 Republicans requested mail ballots in Pennsylvania, as well as some 25,000 people with minor party registration and over 336,000 people with no party affiliation, according to data provided to the U.S. Elections Project by the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s office. The return rate for mail ballots was 87.7 percent among Democrats and 79.4 percent among Republicans, the U.S. Election Project reported.

The number of mail-in ballots the post inaccurately claims were sent out during the general election appears to either come from the number of mail ballots requested in the general election by people registered as Democrats or the number of mail ballots requested overall during the state’s primary election in June. (RELATED: Did RealClearPolitics Rescind Biden’s Win In Pennsylvania, Therefore Stripping Him Of His President-Elect Status?)

Over 1.8 million mail-in ballots were requested for the primary election, according to data from Open Data Pennsylvania. During the primary election, over 1.4 million votes were cast via mail or absentee ballot, according to a report from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

The “Pennsylvania election hearings” that the Instagram post mentions appears to be a reference to a Republican-led state Senate committee hearing held in Gettysburg on Nov. 25. Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, made a similar claim at the hearing, a transcript shows, and so did Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano on Twitter.

Pennsylvania certified its election results for president and vice president on Nov. 24, The Associated Press reported. President-elect Joe Biden received over 3.4 million votes in Pennsylvania, while President Donald Trump received over 3.3 million votes and Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen received over 79,000, according to a Nov. 24 press release from the Pennsylvania government.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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