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The claim: Military and overseas absentee ballots in Georgia indicate election fraud

Joe Biden has been president for more than four months, but claims questioning the legitimacy of his election are still widespread online.

One of those recent claims focuses on Georgia, where Biden beat incumbent Donald Trump by more than 12,000 votes in the 2020 presidential election. In a May 25 article, the Gateway Pundit claimed to have evidence of fraud.

“In Georgia … a sample of military ballots were reviewed recently and all went for Joe Biden,” the conservative website wrote in the article, which has more than 2,600 shares on Facebook. “There is no way these were legit.”

The Gateway Pundit cited an episode of the show “War Room” from Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House chief strategist. During the show, conservative radio host John Fredericks spoke about a recent effort to review copies of absentee ballots in Fulton County, Georgia.

“Out of a batch of 950 military mail-in ballots, Joe Biden got 950 votes, Trump: zero,” he said. “That’s 100%. That is virtually impossible to have happen.”

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It did happen — and it’s not evidence of fraud.

The 950-vote figure stems from the first hand recount of Georgia’s presidential election results. It’s not proof of fraud; three audits of the state’s election results found no indication of widespread fraud.

And it’s consistent with election workers sorting ballots as they counted, which we know was done in a Georgia recount.

“Our law enforcement officers and secretary of state’s office spent literally thousands of hours examining ballots in Fulton County and other counties trying to track these kinds of claims down, and so far we’ve seen nothing give any merit to it,” Gabriel Sterling, the Republican chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said in an interview with CNN.

USA TODAY reached out to the Gateway Pundit for comment.

Officials sort ballots during an audit at the Georgia World Congress Center on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Atlanta.

No evidence of fraud

Three audits of Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results found no evidence of wrongdoing. But another review of absentee ballots in the state’s most populous county has resurfaced debunked allegations of fraud.

On May 21, a judge in Henry County, Georgia, agreed to unseal more than 145,000 absentee ballots as part of the discovery process in a case that alleges Fulton County, home of Atlanta, mishandled ballots. One of the plaintiffs in the case is Garland Favorito, co-founder of the nonprofit VoterGA and a supporter of conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

That review hasn’t found any evidence of fraud because it hasn’t started yet. The claim from the Gateway Pundit and Fredericks dates back to Georgia’s first hand recount of its election results.

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Data from the November audit shows one batch of absentee ballots with 950 votes for Biden and zero votes for Trump. The dataset labels the ballots as “military,” but they also include overseas voters.

“It is one of many discrepancies which will likely be presented in court,” Fredericks said in an email to USA TODAY.

It may seem strange that an entire batch of absentee ballots went for Biden, but it’s not an indication of fraud.

Another batch of military and overseas absentee ballots in the dataset shows 130 votes for Trump and zero for Biden.

Georgia Public Broadcasting and other media outlets have reported those batches may be the product of a local counter sorting the ballots by candidate. And an Associated Press photo of a Georgia recount shows a worker doing exactly that — sorting ballots into bins for Biden and Trump.

An election worker places a ballot in a counted bin during a hand recount of Presidential votes on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020 in Marietta, Ga.

The Georgia secretary of state’s office said the November hand recount “upheld and reaffirmed the original outcome produced by the machine tally of votes cast.” Two other audits of Georgia’s presidential election results — including a Georgia Bureau of Investigation analysis of 15,000 absentee ballots in Cobb County — found no evidence of widespread fraud.

“We conducted a statewide hand recount that reaffirmed the initial tally, and a machine recount at the request of the Trump campaign that also reaffirmed the original tally,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a December press release.

USA TODAY reached out to the Georgia secretary of state’s office for comment, but it did not provide one on the record.

Our rating: False

The claim that military and overseas absentee ballots in Georgia indicate election fraud is FALSE, based on our research. The data cited by the Gateway Pundit and others stems from Georgia’s first hand recount of its 2020 presidential election results, which found no evidence of widespread fraud. There was indeed a group of ballots that all went for Biden, but another group went all for Trump, in line with a known Georgia process of sorting ballots during the recount. Two subsequent audits also found no wrongdoing.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Georgia military, overseas ballots not evidence of fraud