Were These Mail-In Ballots Discovered in a California Landfill?

Images and stories like these are being used to mislead people about the integrity of the 2020 U.S. election and of mail-in ballots in particular.

  • Published 25 September 2020

Claim

Photographs show over a thousand mail-in ballots discovered in a California landfill.

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U.S. Election Day is Nov. 3, 2020. Check your state’s vote-by-mail options. Browse our coverage of candidates and the issues. And just keep fact-checking.

In September 2020, amidst the propagation of many (mostly false) reports intended to cast aspersions on the integrity of the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election, a series of tweets and blog posts went viral that claimed to show photographs of over a thousand mail-in ballots discovered in a Republic Services of Sonoma County landfill in Petaluma, California.

However, the items shown in the photographs were not ballots, were not from 2020, and were not illegally discarded. As the County of Sonoma verified via social media, the pictured items were merely empty envelopes from the November 2018 election that had been disposed of as allowed by law:

county of sonoma ballots

As the Election Integrity Project observed, “Images and stories like these are being used to mislead people about the integrity of the election. We recommend caution when sharing images, especially images of uncertain provenance.”