False Claim of ‘Seized’ Voting Machines in Georgia
By Angelo Fichera
Posted on December 8, 2020
Viral posts falsely claim that Dominion voting machines were “seized” in Ware County, Georgia, and that votes were found to have been “switched” for Joe Biden. No such seizure occurred and there was no such finding, according to local and state election officials. Trump handily won the county with 70% of the vote.
In part, Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting systems implementation manager, addressed a viral claim spread on social media — including Facebook and Twitter — positing that Dominion voting machines in Ware County have been “seized.” Dominion Voting Systems has been a frequent target of conspiracy theories in the aftermath of the presidential election.
“There are no seized machines in Ware County. Not true,” Sterling, a Republican, said in a press conference Dec. 7. “Did not happen.”
The false claim was amplified by some elected Republican officials, including a city councilman in Marysville, Ohio.
On Dec. 6, Aaron Carpenter, the Ohio councilman, wrote that “the big news you need to hear about today is Ware County, Georgia,” where “Dominion machines were seized.” His tweet was shared more than 40,000 times.
Two days earlier, Georgia’s Rep. Jody Hice posted a tweet: “Yesterday we learned a forensics examination of a Ware County, GA #DominionVotingSystems machine found votes were switched from @realDonaldTrump to @JoeBiden. This is one machine in one county in one state. Did this happen elsewhere? We need to know! EXAMINE ALL THE MACHINES!”
But the claims are baseless — a “lie,” according to Carlos Nelson, the Ware County elections supervisor. He said he had “no idea where that came from.”
None “of our equipment was seized,” Nelson, a Democrat, told us in a phone interview. “We have all of our equipment in hand.”
Similar to Hice’s tweet, a claim that appeared on social media — including a popular post on the social media platform Parler — said that “using sequestered Dominion Equipment, Ware County” found that “37 Trump votes used in the equal sample run had been ‘Switched’ from Trump to Biden.”
Nelson’s response: “There was no vote flipping.”
Instead, the 37 votes refers to the fact that during the statewide hand count that was done as part of a risk-limiting audit, Trump’s votes in Ware County went up by 37 compared to the initial election results.
“A statewide hand recount as part of a post-election audit resulted in a difference of 37 additional votes for the president in Ware County,” the Georgia Secretary of State’s office also noted in a Dec. 7 press release addressing the claim. “That totals 0.26 percent, well below the average 1-2 percent variation demonstrated by academic research when comparing the accuracy of manual counts compared to machine counts because of normal human error.”
Nelson said that the error was made while scanning absentee ballots. The ballots are processed in batches and the machine rejected some flawed ballots (say, for a rip), causing workers to have to fix the ballots and resubmit the whole batch. That is not unusual, he said.
But because the workers didn’t erase the votes preceding the flawed ballots on some batches, the initial reporting reflected additional, incomplete batches, too.
“The human error was in the absentee ballot portal,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the county realized the error after the election because the vote totals were slightly off, but the issue was accounted for and corrected during the hand tally done for the audit. The county’s results were then affirmed during the formal, electronic recount in Georgia that was requested by the Trump campaign.
In the end, the official recount put Trump up 38 votes and Biden down 42 votes in the county, compared to the initial results. That’s out of 14,189 votes for president in the county. Small variations in a recount are common and expected.
“The bottom line is this: The system worked as it was intended to work,” Nelson said.
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Cassidy, Christina A. “EXPLAINER: Is Georgia’s upcoming ballot ‘audit’ a recount?” Associated Press. 12 Nov 2020.
“Georgia Secretary of State holds Monday Dec 7 press conference.” WJBF. YouTube. 7 Dec 2020.
Nelson, Carlos. Elections supervisor, Ware County. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 7 Dec 2020.
“Secretary of State’s Office Debunks Ware County Voting Machine Story.” Press release, Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. 7 Dec 2020.
November 3, 2020 | General Election | Ware County, GA Results. Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Updated 12 Nov 2020.
November 3, 2020 | Recount | Ware County, GA Results. Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Updated 2 Dec 2020.