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Fact check: Are 80 million unsolicited ballots in the mail?

September 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

An election worker opens envelopes containing vote-by-mail ballots for the August 4 Washington state primary at King County Elections in Renton, Washington on August 3, 2020. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has been waging a disinformation campaign against mail-in voting for months, but recently, he's seized on a particular statistic to support the narrative that this election is prime for widespread fraud.

This month, he has repeatedly claimed that 80 million unsolicited ballots are en-route to voters across the country who didn't request them and further suggested there's no way to track mail-in ballots or know who gets them.

Facts First: While some sources estimate there will be around 80 million ballots submitted by mail this year, the President is wrong to suggest that they are all somehow unsolicited.

In 41 of 50 states, voters have to request their ballot by mail before being sent one, with only a handful of states automatically sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

It's possible the President got the number from an August New York Times article, which stated that experts predict "roughly 80 million mail ballots will flood election offices this fall. " However, not all of these ballots would be the result of voters receiving unsolicited ballots in the mail.

These mail-in ballots, which make up part of the estimated 80 million total, are not unsolicited.

What the President is likely referring to when he voices concerns about unsolicited ballots are the nine states where every registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail for the upcoming election.

However, five of those states have been holding their elections primarily by mail since before the pandemic, so voters who register in these states do so knowing they'll likely submit their ballot by mail.

Of those nine states, two -- California and Vermont -- are implementing this practice for the first time, so it's possible voters registered earlier this year not knowing they would be sent a mail-in ballot whether or not they wanted one.

Those nine states and Washington, DC, which is also mailing ballots directly, account for over 43 million voters as of mid-August.

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