The Slatest

Federal Investigation Finds Pennsylvania Postal Worker’s Mail-In Ballot Fraud Allegation Was, You Guessed It, Utter Hogwash

An election worker's hands are seen opening a mail-in ballot taken from a box of ballots.
Mail-in ballots are counted in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 4. Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters

An investigation by the U.S. Postal Service’s inspector general into a Pennsylvania postal worker’s outlandish voter fraud allegations determined the claims were, as expected, total hogwash. The claims levied by mail carrier Richard Hopkins shortly after the November election were so cartoonishly villainous that in a normal year with a normal president and a normal Republican political party, the burden of proof would have been on Hopkins to prove that he wasn’t totally full of it. Instead, in 2020, Trump and his Republican allies, like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, credulously lapped up Hopkins’ story. And what exactly was Hopkins’ story? That he “overheard” the local postmaster in Erie, Pennsylvania, hatching a sinister plot to backdate ballots that arrived after the Nov. 3 deadline, passing them off as legitimate, so they would be counted. Trump, you may remember, lost Pennsylvania by nearly 82,000 votes.*

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Yes, of course, Hopkins, just minding his own business, happened upon some casual federal election fraud office banter. It was always ludicrous, but it didn’t matter, and Hopkins’ flimsy claim was sucked up into the right-wing delusion that their guy Trump had been robbed and was blasted out by Republicans, well, everywhere. On Nov. 10, Trump tweeted that Hopkins was a “a brave patriot.” Lindsey Graham, bless his little heart, called for a federal investigation. Hopkins, of course, recanted his story shortly after. When pressed by federal agents, Hopkins “revised his initial claims, eventually stating that he had not heard a conversation about ballots at all—rather he saw the Postmaster and Supervisor having a discussion and assumed it was about fraudulent ballot backdating,” the inspector general report found.

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After multiple rounds of investigations, the report concludes there is quite simply nothing to the allegations made by Hopkins, who has been suspended without pay since Nov. 10. “Both the interview of the Erie County Election Supervisor and the physical examination of ballots produced no evidence of any backdated presidential election ballots at the Erie, PA Post Office,” the report states. Throughout the charade, Hopkins was coached by the far-right provocateurs at Project Veritas, a gotcha organization that purports to uncover media bias, but is really home to performative scam artists, manipulating people and footage to feed an outrage loop on the right.

Hopkins’ small lie in service of the big one, however, has been big business for the suspended postal worker. “Hopkins has raised more than $236,000 on GiveSendGo, a Christian online fundraising platform, in a campaign that falsely describes the nature of his claim,” the Washington Post notes. He was also trotted out onstage at the Conservative Political Action Conference by Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe.

Seems like everyone involved in the voter fraud fraud is doing just fine.

Correction, March 18, 2021: This post originally misstated that Trump lost Pennsylvania by nearly 200,000 votes.

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