False claim that John Fetterman’s lawsuit is proof of cheating in Pennsylvania election

The claim: John Fetterman is suing to have undated ballots counted so he can cheat

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the week before the midterm elections that undated ballots and ballots dated outside specific ranges would not be counted in the elections.

In response, Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman and numerous other Democrats filed a lawsuit seeking to have these ballots counted, according to CNN. Social media users are claiming this lawsuit is a ploy by Fetterman to steal the midterm election.

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“Why would Fetterman sue to have unsigned, undated ballots counted?” reads a Nov. 8 Facebook posts. “Durrrrrr….so the liberals can cheat again… We all know it’s for counting fraudulent ballots.”

Similar iterations of this claim have been shared on Facebook and Twitter.

This claim is false. Experts say the request to count ballots is valid and legal. In addition, the number of uncounted ballots is small in comparison to Fetterman’s lead, and there is no way of knowing who the ballots would support.

USA TODAY reached out to the users who shared the post for comment.

Request to count ballots is not ‘cheating’

“This claim is misinformation,” Amy Gulli, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State, told USA TODAY over email.

Several election experts told USA TODAY something similar, explaining that the counting of these undated ballots would not be a sign of cheating.

“A ballot that is otherwise valid, and is in the hands of election officials before Election Day, is a ballot that should be counted – and is counted in almost every state in America,” Phil Keisling, board chair of the National Vote at Home Institute, told USA TODAY via email.

Though officials and parties disagree on how misdated ballots should be used, there’s no basis to say the position the Fetterman and others hold has any connection to election fraud, experts say.

“As long as a ballot is received within a day or two of Election Day, there is no reason to suspect a ballot with no date or the wrong date is evidence of cheating,” Robert Erikson, a political science professor at Columbia University, told USA TODAY by email.

Barry Burden, an American politics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, agreed.

“It is not ‘cheating and stealing’ but rather a request to reverse the Supreme Court decision on the grounds that it violates the federal civil rights law,” Burden said in an email to USA TODAY.

Fact check: Van carrying ballots late at night in Detroit is normal, officials say

With over 95% of votes counted, Fetterman has surpassed Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz by more than 200,000 votes, according to The New York Times. Pennsylvania’s two most populous counties, Philadelphia and Allegheny, published lists of incorrectly-dated ballots, totaling only 3,300, NPR reported.

“At this point those (misdated) ballots are so relatively small in number, compared to Fetterman’s lead, that they’re irrelevant to the question of who wins or not,” Keisling said.

Erikson and Burden also noted candidates would have no way of knowing which candidate those uncounted ballots would help, though Burden said past data shows they would likely lean Democratic

“Based on patterns seen in other states, it tends to be younger and new voters who disproportionately have their ballots discarded for administrative reasons, so it is most likely that Democratic-leaning voters would be more affected in Pennsylvania,” Burden added.

Oz called Fetterman on the morning of Nov. 9 and officially conceded, according to CBS News.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we FALSE the claim that Fetterman is suing to have undated ballots counted so he can cheat. Experts say Fetterman’s request to count ballots is valid and legal. The number of uncounted ballots is small in comparison to Fetterman’s lead, and there is no way of knowing who the ballots would support.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Nov. 1, Ball v. Chapman

  • Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Nov. 5, Ball v. Chapman

  • CNN, Nov. 7, Fetterman sues to have mail-in ballots counted even if not signed with valid date

  • CBS News, Nov. 9, PA Election Results: Oz calls Fetterman to concede

  • The New York Times, accessed Nov. 14, Pennsylvania Election Results

  • NPR, Nov. 7, Why ‘undated’ ballots have sparked a new election lawsuit in Pennsylvania

  • Phil Keisling, Nov. 12, Email exchange with USA TODAY

  • Barry Burden, Nov. 11, Email exchange with USA TODAY

  • Robert Erikson, Nov. 10, Email exchange with USA TODAY

  • Amy Gulli, Nov. 14, Email exchange with USA TODAY

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Experts say John Fetterman’s lawsuit is legal

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