Fact Check: Did Fabricated Water Main Break Affect Vote Counting in Georgia as Trump Says?

President Donald Trump and members of the Republican Party have sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in which Joe Biden was declared the winner. The Washington Post reported on Trump's latest attempt to undermine the election.

In a leaked recorded phone call made on Saturday, Trump can be heard attempting to convince Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to find enough votes to ensure that Georgia went to Trump.

After three rounds of ballot counting, Biden won the state by an 11,779-vote margin. Trump has made unproven claims of voter fraud in other swing states that were key to Biden's victory.

I love the Great State of Georgia, but the people who run it, from the Governor, @BrianKempGA, to the Secretary of State, are a complete disaster and don’t have a clue, or worse. Nobody can be this stupid. Just allow us to find the crime, and turn the state Republican....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2020

According to The New York Times, Trump listed a number of reasons why votes in Georgia were invalid to try to convince Raffensperger to overturn the results. One issue referred to a controversy from early November, when a water main allegedly broke.

The Claim

On November 5, Trump said during a press conference that a pipe allegedly burst, delaying vote counting for four hours, and that there were no observers allowed after the incident was resolved.

"In Georgia, a pipe burst in a faraway location, totally unrelated to the location of what was happening, and they stopped counting for four hours, and a lot of things happened," Trump said. "The election apparatus in Georgia is run by Democrats."

Trump went on to say that "we've also been denied access to observe in critical places in Georgia."

In the phone call to Raffensperger, Trump again mentioned the broken water main controversy and the alleged lack of observers.

They said they left. They ran out because of a water main break, and there was no water main. There was nothing. There was no break. There was no water main break.
President Donald Trump

"Where they got—number one they said very clearly and it's been reported that they said there was a major water main break," Trump said. "Everybody fled the area. And then they came back, [name bleeped out] and her daughter and a few people. There were no Republican poll watchers. Actually, there were no Democrat poll watchers, I guess they were them. But there were no Democrats, either, and there was no law enforcement.

"It was late in the evening, late in the, early in the morning, and there was nobody else in the room. Where were the poll watchers, and why did they say a water main broke, which they did and which was reported in the newspapers? They said they left. They ran out because of a water main break, and there was no water main. There was nothing. There was no break. There was no water main break. But where, if you take out everything, where were the Republican poll watchers, even where were the Democrat poll watchers? Because there were none."

The Facts

On December 7, Republican Gabriel Sterling, the voting implementation manager for Georgia, spoke at a press conference that was recorded by C-SPAN.

He addressed the issue of the water main controversy: "Let's be clear, there was no water main break. There was a urinal that they turn off during the downtime at State Farm [Arena in Atlanta] because there's no events going on there. And it had a little slow leak that came over the side."

Sterling also pointed out that the events of the night of the water leak can be found on surveillance footage.

"You'll see when they walk in and see the obvious water leak on the floor. You will see they move all of the stuff out of the way. You will see the Zamboni little carpet drier thingy driving around. I mean, you can see all the things happening. You can see the table get put in place," Sterling said.

"What's really frustrating is the president's attorneys had this same videotape. They saw the exact same things the rest of us could see and they chose to mislead state senators and the public about what was on that video."

You can watch the @wsbtv report to show that the President’s team is intentionally misleading the public about what happened at State Farm Arena on election night. They had the whole video too and ignored the truth. https://t.co/VvKZUxsihk

— Gabriel Sterling (@GabrielSterling) December 4, 2020

Frances Watson, chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state, echoed Sterling's statement in an affidavit.

"The Secretary of State's Office opened an investigation into the incident at State Farm Arena. Our investigation revealed that the incident initially reported as a water leak late in the evening of November 3rd was actually a urinal that had overflowed early in the morning of November 3rd, and did not affect the counting of votes by Fulton County later that evening."

The affidavit also states, in part, that "observers and media were not asked to leave. They simply left on their own when they saw one group of workers, whose job was only to open envelopes and who had completed that task, also leave," the affidavit said.

Fulton has discovered an issue involving reporting from their work on Fri. Officials are at State Farm Arena to rescan that work. I have a monitor & investigators onsite. Also sent Dep. SOS as well to oversee the process to make sure to secure the vote and protect all legal votes

— GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (@GaSecofState) November 7, 2020

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on November 17 that "the water leak was originally reported as a burst pipe, but days later officials corrected themselves to say it was a leaky toilet spilling water into a room with ballots early on Election Day."

The official Twitter account for Fulton County also addressed the incident and promised that "no ballots or equipment were damaged."

Clarification Regarding a plumbing incident affecting absentee ballot processing: Around 6 am on Nov 3, a pipe burst in the room at State Farm Arena where absentee ballots were processed. Arena staff swiftly completed repairs. Work resumed in approx 2 hours.

— FultonCountyGeorgia (@FultonInfo) November 6, 2020

State Farm Arena also published a statement saying, "Within 2 hours, repairs were complete. No ballots were damaged, nor was any equipment affected. There was a brief delay in tabulating absentee ballots while the repairs were being conducted...as planned, Fulton County will continue to tabulate the remainder of absentee ballots over the next two days."

According to CNN, Fulton County finished processing ballots on November 5 while more than 50,000 outstanding ballots remained throughout the rest of Georgia.

The Ruling

Mostly false.

Trump said to Raffensperger on Saturday that there was no break, nothing. That is incorrect.

Officials determined that there was a water leak from a urinal at State Farm Arena on November 3 that took two hours to repair. Approximately two hours after the repair was completed, vote counting resumed.

There was a four-hour delay, but members of the media, election officials, observers and poll watchers were not asked to leave while repairs were being made.

Additionally, election officials in Georgia report to the secretary of state, Raffensperger, a Republican, so the election apparatus is not run by Democrats.

Georgia election workers count ballots 2020 race
Election workers count Fulton County ballots at State Farm Arena on November 4, 2020 in Atlanta. A Georgia signature match audit in Cobb County found a 99.99 percent accuracy rate, further disproving President Donald Trump's allegations of widespread voter fraud. Jessica McGowan/Getty