FACT CHECK: Image Claims To Show Shredded Ballots From The 2020 Election In Arizona’s Maricopa County

March 11th, 2021
PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 05: Votes wait to be counted, center, by staff at the Maricopa County Elections Department office on November 5, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Ballots continue to be counted in many critical battleground states as the final results in the U.S. presidential election remain too close to call. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows shredded ballots from the 2020 election that were found in a Maricopa County, Arizona, dumpster.



Verdict: False

The ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election are sealed in a vault and have not been shredded, according to a Maricopa County Elections Department spokesperson. The Maricopa County Recorder also said in a statement that none of the legally voted ballots in the vault have been shredded.

Fact Check:

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled in late February that the county must turn over ballots cast in the November election so the Arizona Senate can conduct an audit, AZCentral reported. President Joe Biden received over 1.6 million votes in Arizona and won the state, according to election results from the Arizona Secretary of State.

Social media users have been sharing a photo along with the claim that the shredded papers spilling out of the yellow bag are ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election that were found by dumpster divers in a Maricopa County dumpster. The caption of this particular Facebook post reads, “Ballots in Arizona County found shredded in dumpster, days before Senate audit.”

However, Megan Gilbertson, the communications director for the Maricopa County Elections Department, said in an emailed statement to Check Your Fact that the county “has not, and would never destroy voted ballots until legally authorized to do so after the 24-month retention period.”

“The reality is the November General Election ballots are sealed and stored in the vault, not the warehouse,” Gilbertson said in the statement. “The vault is under the watch of a 24-7 camera. None of the ballots or other General election materials from the vault were in the garbage, and as a matter of business, the county can and does throw out trash.”

Gilbertson went on to say that “these individuals were dumpster diving on Maricopa County property” and that “security footage shows they attempted to break into the warehouse entrance of the Elections Department on Saturday with a board from the dumpster.” The county “plans to follow up with law enforcement about these activities,” according to Gilbertson.

Gilbertson further told the Arizona Mirror that the images could show sample ballots sent out by the county, sample ballots that are available online or mail-in ballots that voters didn’t return.

“The ballot shown in the picture could be any one of those things,” she told the Arizona Mirror. “What it is not is an official voted ballot from the November General Election.” (RELATED: Does This Video Show Ballots Being Destroyed In Georgia’s Cobb County?)

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer also released a statement regarding the claim, saying in part, “Every single ballot of the 2.1 million November General Election ballots that were tabulated have been held securely and the chain of custody has never been broken.”

“I do not know what was in the yellow bags that have appeared in photos online because I have not seen the contents of these bags,” Richer said in the statement. “After speaking with the voter registration team, I’ve confirmed that we shred a variety of non-classified documents. In addition, we also destroy deceased voter ballots since they could never be legally tabulated.”

The claim about the photo of the shredded papers started circulating after Staci Burk, an Arizona woman, posted it and other images on Facebook over the weekend, claiming they show “ballots shredded and in dumpsters behind the Maricopa County Ballot tabulation center.” Burk previously filed a lawsuit alleging widespread fraud in Arizona that, according to AZCentral, a Pinal County judge dismissed after finding she did not have legal “standing to challenge an election in which she did not vote and could not vote” and did not file her complaint in time, a decision upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Gateway Pundit, which has published false claims related to the Nov. 3 election in the past, later spread similar claims about allegedly shredded Maricopa County ballots. In December, Check Your Fact debunked the notion that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has a brother named Ron who works for the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, an allegation Gateway Pundit published in a now-unavailable article.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to properly reflect the reasons an Arizona judge cited in dismissing Burk’s lawsuit and to add clarification about the source of the claim. We regret the error.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter