Here's A Running List Of False And Misleading Information About The Election
Watch out for images and videos being taken out of context.
Election Day is here. We may see a flood of false information about President Donald Trump and his challenger, former vice president Joe Biden. Researchers are warning about images or videos of ballot tampering that may be old or out of context, misleading statistics on voter fraud, and baseless allegations of foreign interference.
Before sharing an online rumor with your friends and family, take the time to verify it. This can be as easy as checking how recently an account sharing the information was created, comparing the claim to what reputable news outlets are saying, searching online to find another source, or doing a reverse image search.
Today we'll be keeping a running list of unverified, misleading, and fake claims that we have been able to debunk. This list will be updated throughout the day, so please check back.
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How to read this post:
UNVERIFIED: Claims that have no concrete evidence either confirming or refuting them. This type of claim has either no sources or no evidence, and is based on conjecture with no original reporting behind it. Treat this kind of information with healthy skepticism and wait to see how it develops.
MISLEADING: Posts that take a real event out of context, for example: miscaptioning a video or photo from the protests. This can also include images that are presented at a deceptive angle or descriptions that cherry-pick facts. Avoid spreading or engaging with this type of post.
FALSE: Reporters or reliable sources with direct knowledge have contradicted this information on the record, or it is refuted by unimpeachable evidence. Examples include images or videos filmed at a different time or location but presented as recent, demonstrably false claims, and websites masquerading as news outlets publishing untrue information.
1. A postal worker charged with hiding mail was caught with three blank absentee ballots that had not been delivered to voters.
On Nov. 3, postal worker Brandon Wilson was stopped at the Peace Bridge, which connects New York and Canada, by US Customs and Border Protection as he attempted to cross into Canada. A search discovered over 800 pieces of undelivered mail. Wilson claimed the mail belonged to him and his mother, but the Department of Justice said he “could not account for additional names printed on the mail pieces. Wilson further stated that he had intended to deliver the mail and had forgotten to return the mail pieces to the post office.”
Among the undelivered mail were three undelivered ballots, addressed to voters in Buffalo, New York, which were not delivered. The people who did not receive them could still have voted.
The presence of undelivered ballots caused the often misleading @Breaking911 Twitter account to emphasize them in its tweet and story headline without making it clear how few were found and that they are not the focus of the investigation. Donald Trump Jr. and other pro-Trump Twitter users spread the tweet, suggesting it was evidence of election interference.
The DOJ announcement of Wilson’s arrest does not include charges of interfering with the election. He was charged with delay or destruction of mail.
2. The videos of a worker “filling out” blank ballots actually shows damaged ballots being transcribed.
Late Thursday night and Friday morning, pro-Trump accounts began circulating videos purporting to show voter fraud in Pennsylvania. The videos, taken from livestreams of ballot-counting, showed people filling out blank ballots. The president’s supporters labeled it voter fraud, but what was happening is much more mundane: fixing damaged ballots.
Adrienne Marofsky, the public relations director for Delaware County, which borders Philadelphia, told BuzzFeed News what’s actually happening:
During the processing of ballots, a machine extractor opens the ballots. Some ballots were damaged by the extractor during this process in such a way that the ballots could not be scanned successfully. According to the scanner manufacturer, Hart, the best practice to deal with damaged ballots that cannot be scanned is to transcribe the votes on each ballot to a clean ballot and scan the clean ballot. In accordance with that guidance, the Chief Clerk of the Delaware County Bureau of Elections instructed election staff to manually transcribe the damaged ballots. As ballots were being transcribed, the original damaged ballots were directly beside the new ballots and bipartisan observers witnessed the process at close range. Damaged ballots have been preserved.
The false claim spread like wildfire across both Facebook and Twitter despite warning labels applied by both social media companies. Marofsky said this disinformation was turning civic transparency into a weapon.
“Unfortunately, some residents have altered the video and are making false accusations, which baselessly and wrongly attacks the integrity of the election staff and the completely transparent process by which votes are being counted in Delaware County,” she said.
3. No, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not delete recent tweets from her White House account.
People on Twitter opposed to Trump are spreading a false rumor that White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany deleted tweets from her official Twitter account.
They claim she deleted tweets beginning on Oct. 31. But in fact, the reason there are no tweets is that she simply wasn't tweeting from that account during those days. The Wayback Machine archive of the @PressSec account confirms she was silent between Nov. 1 and Nov. 5.
On Friday, Nov. 6, McEnany confirmed that the rumor was false.
During the same period of time, however, McEnany was tweeting about the election from her personal account. Government employees are not supposed to use official channels for campaign activity. It’s possible that some people saw her personal tweets and thought they came from the official White House account.
Some people also claimed Vice President Mike Pence had deleted tweets, which is false. He was also using his personal account to send campaign tweets.
Similarly, a rumor spread that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner had recently deleted tweets. As Snopes reported in September, Kushner previously deleted all of his tweets between 2014 and 2016.
4. No, ballots for Trump were not discovered in a Georgia dumpster.
Sheriff Darrell Dix said in a statement that his office responded to a call on Thursday night about the contents of the dumpster. They taped off the area and collected the documents. On Friday morning, deputies and an investigator with the secretary of state's office searched the papers and didn’t find any ballots.
“What was found were empty envelopes that were used to mail ballots to the elections office. Those envelopes are marked ‘Ballot.’ Each had been opened and they were all empty,” Dix said.
"There has been a great deal of bad information, misinformation, rumor, and gossip over the chain of events that occurred last night at the Spalding County Elections Office," he said, adding, "these are facts, not rumors, allegations, misinformation, or gossip.”
5. Republican ballots were counted as Democratic in Michigan, but the error was small and quickly corrected.
In a misleading press conference, Laura Cox, the chair of the Michigan Republican party, talked about a glitch that caused Republican ballots to be counted as Democratic ones. Amplified by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, that press conference quickly went viral.
Cox was referring to a glitch in Antrim County, which local authorities announced on Nov. 4. After noticing that the results weren’t accurate, the inaccurately counted votes were removed, and the votes were counted again.
“The vote totals counted by the election software did not match the printed tabulator tapes, which official results are based upon. Because of this, the printed tabulated tapes from each precinct will be counted manually and revised,” the announcement said.
Cox did not mention that the mistake was caught and corrected (with the help of independent canvassers) giving the false impression that it was a widespread error. She said that several other counties in Michigan used the software, without offering any evidence that they suffered from the same issue.
6. A video of a person filling out one ballot after another is a joke from TikTok.
As the Daily Dot reported, the video that circulated widely on social media showing one ballot filled being out after another is fake. It originated on a TikTok account that explicitly said it was a prank. The video was widely used as evidence of voter fraud, but in an interview, the original poster said he didn’t use real ballots.
“The TikTok video was political satire using sample ballots anyone can print at home,” he said.
1. A viral video shows a local TV camera operator in Detroit, not a poll worker wheeling in ballots.
During a Wednesday livestream that racked up millions of views on YouTube, Crowder promoted the video as possible “proof” of voter fraud. As footage of the cameraperson played, he and a guest speculated that the man was bringing in ballots to be counted. When the man loaded a box onto a wagon, Crowder said, “You wouldn't be able to trust it because some ballots could fly off the back.”
The footage was shot by Kellye SoRelle, a Texas lawyer and member of Lawyers for Trump, who said she was in Detroit as a Republican observer. On Crowder's livestream, she said the box taken from the van was similar to boxes of ballots she “had seen and been watching and monitoring.”
She was wrong.
“The ‘ballot thief’ was my photographer,” tweeted Ross Jones, a reporter with WXYZ. “He was bringing down equipment for our 12-hour shift.”
The video was also the subject of a misleading story on Texas Scorecard, a conservative site, which has generated over 120,000 views on YouTube.
2. There is “no basis” for a claim that 500 mail-in votes for Trump were dumped in Michigan.
A person on Twitter is making a dubious claim that 500 pro-Trump ballots were “dumped” in Michigan.
"As far as we know there is no basis for this claim," a spokesperson for the Michigan secretary of state told BuzzFeed News. "Have not heard of anything of the sort happening from the clerk."
3. An out-of-context video falsely claims Biden admitted to voter fraud.
An out-of-context video of Biden's appearance on the podcast Pod Save America is making rounds again after going viral on Oct. 24. According to a Snopes debunk at the time, Biden was actually talking about Trump.
The out-of-context video was tweeted by RNC Research, amplified by Eric Trump, and eventually quote-tweeted by the president.
"The President of the United States has already demonstrated he’s willing to lie and manipulate our country’s democratic process to help himself politically, which is why we have assembled the most robust and sophisticated team in presidential campaign history to confront voter suppression and fight voter fraud however it may present itself," a spokesperson for the Biden campaign told Snopes in October.
4. No, a dead person's vote is not going to be counted in Michigan.
The videos purport to show voters who are over 100 years old casting a ballot in Michigan, but they are misleading.
Logically, a company monitoring misinformation, reported that the people shown in the videos “most likely are relatives of the people born in the early 1900s and inherited relatives' names.” Logically also matched the names of the people who are over 100 years old — featured in the videos — to their likely living descendants.
According to a spokesperson for the Michigan secretary of state, even if someone cast a ballot for a voter who died, that ballot won't be counted:
Ballots of voters who have died are rejected in Michigan, even if the voter cast an absentee ballot and then died before Election Day. On rare occasions, a ballot received for a living voter may be recorded in a way that makes it appear as if the voter is dead. This can be because of voters with similar names, where the ballot is accidentally recorded as voted by John Smith Sr when it was actually voted by John Smith Jr; or because of inaccurately recorded birth dates in the qualified voter file; for example, someone born in 1990 accidentally recorded as born in 1890. In such scenarios, no one ineligible has actually voted, and there is no impact on the outcome of the election. Local clerks can correct the issue when it is brought to their attention.
5. A graphic claiming swing states have more people voting than are registered gets every single number wrong.
A graphic falsely claiming key states had anywhere between 96% to 125% turnout got every number wrong. Here are the real numbers of registered voters in each of the eight states, according to their secretaries of state:
6. A canvas watcher who claimed to have been removed from a ballot counting room in Philadelphia was breaking the rules.
A video spreading on Twitter shows a man claiming to be a registered Democrat and canvas watcher accusing election officials in Philadelphia of preventing him from observing the vote count. He said he was wrongfully removed from the ballot counting room in Pennsylvania and forced to stand far away. Texas Senator Ted Cruz retweeted the video, writing falsely that, “Dem mayors are defying the law.”
In fact, an eyewitness and a city official told BuzzFeed News that the man was removed after breaking rules that prohibit filming inside.
According to Lauren Vidas, an election law attorney and an observer in the room, the man was one of two people filming inside the room, which is against the rules. The ballot counters “didn’t flinch, I don’t even know if they noticed it,” she said.
A spokesperson for the city’s commissioner’s office, which is responsible for administering the election, confirmed the man broke the rules.
“He was removed from the room by security after refusing to stop taking pix in the observer area,” said spokesperson Kevin Feeley. “He was told several times that he had to stop, there are signs in multiple places saying ‘no pictures allowed,’ and he disregarded all of it.”
Vidas said the other person taking photos was asked to delete them and, once they did, was allowed to remain. The man in the video refused and was asked to leave. Vidas also said it looked like the man had Republican identification despite claiming he was a Democrat.
“This was him purposely trying to create a scene,” Vidas said. “The only people who think it’s a situation are people repeating it on social media.”
1. It's misleading to say ballots have been “magically found” in Michigan, where mail-in ballots are still being counted.
Tweets, like the one above, claiming ballots were being “magically counted” are misleading. The state's mail-in ballots are still being counted and officials are asking the public for patience, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The influx of 138,339 Biden votes cited in some tweets was the result of a data error, according to a spokesperson for Decision Desk HQ, an election data and analysis service.
“It was a simple error from a file created by the state that we ingested,” the company said in a statement. "DDHQ does not correct/amend/adjust any state provided file. The state noticed the error and produced an updated count. This happens on election nights and we expect other vote tabulators in MI experienced this error and corrected in real-time as we did."
2. No, Wisconsin did not experience more votes than people who were registered to vote.
3. Yes, you can use a Sharpie to fill out a ballot in Arizona.
Some supporters of the president are falsely saying on social media they were given Sharpies to vote at Arizona polling places, leading to their votes being invalidated. The conspiracy even generated its own hashtag, #Sharpiegate.
It's not clear where this falsehood originated, but Arizona officials confirmed that ballots filled out with Sharpies will be counted.
4. Yes, some counties paused vote counting overnight. No, it's not suspicious.
Officials in some counties in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Georgia paused late Tuesday night and resumed counting Wednesday morning. The reason? To give poll workers some rest.
But the decisions to pause some vote counts elicited viral Twitter posts that falsely conflated the break with fraud, claiming that Democrats were halting the count to generate fraudulent votes for former vice president Joe Biden.
Because the United States does not have a national election authority, decisions to let poll workers sleep differed by place, with some locations continuing to work around the clock.
There is no evidence of widespread voter irregularities, and the vote count is continuing as expected.
5. No, ABC News did not retract its prediction that Joe Biden would win Arizona.
Pro-Trump podcaster Graham Allen falsely claimed on Twitter that ABC News retracted its call that Biden had won Arizona. In fact, ABC News had not awarded the state to either candidate when Graham tweeted early Wednesday afternoon.
This is what the news organization's electoral map looked like:
Allen later deleted his tweet.
Mediaite reported that the false claim originated on Rush Limbaugh's radio show. This is what he said:
I need more than one source on this. I’ve just heard that ABC News has taken in Arizona down for Joe Biden. I just found this. I don’t have enough time to research myself, so I have assigned somebody to try to. OK, so they have they have taken it away. ABC has taken it away from Biden. It’s not that they’ve given it to Trump; it’s just that it’s still undecided. Well, at least they took it away.
6. The White House press secretary and the president’s son are lying about winning Pennsylvania.
State election officials have not yet certified the result. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were still thousands of ballots remaining to be counted.
Twitter and Facebook both applied warning labels to posts making the claim. “Official sources may not have called the race when this was Tweeted,” the Twitter label said.
“Final results may be different from the initial vote counts, as ballot counting will continue for days or weeks after the polls close,” the label on Facebook read.
7. A viral video does not show someone burning 80 Trump votes.
A video that claimed to show someone putting 80 votes for Trump into a plastic bag and setting them on fire spread rapidly on Twitter. It’s also false. Twitter has suspended at least one account that posted the video, which was retweeted by Eric Trump and other pro-Trump influencers.
In reality, the "votes" being burned were sample ballots, according to a statement from an election official in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The video appears to have been first shared by an anonymous account early Wednesday morning, which later tweeted that it had no idea where the video was shot and claimed to live in England.
Right-wing site the Gateway Pundit cited it in an article, while acknowledging, “None of the people who have tweeted the video seem to know where the video came from to confirm its authenticity.”
8. The US president is lying about winning Pennsylvania.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Trump lied about winning the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Twitter and repeated misinformation about “secretly dumped ballots.” Twitter applied a warning label to both tweets. The first label warned that results have not been called yet; the second said, “the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”
9. A fake Associated Press account is tweeting false election results.
Twitter suspended the account late on Wednesday afternoon.
10. The New York Times did not retract a call that gave the state of Arizona to Biden.
The chairperson of the Arizona Republican Party spread false information. But the New York Times did not retract its call, and it continues to say that Biden will win Arizona.
11. A Wall Street Journal columnist miscalculated voter turnout in Wisconsin.
A Wall Street Journal columnist misinterpreted how to calculate voter turnout, leading her to raise misleading concerns about the results in Wisconsin. Kimberley Strassel tweeted that the turnout was 89%, which she said was “not feasible.” However, her calculation was wrong.
Turnout is calculated based on eligible voters, not registered voters. That means the turnout was actually around 71%, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. That's in line with the turnout expectations in the state and around the country, and it's not cause for concern.
1. No, voters have not received ballots already filled out with whom to vote for.
A screenshot of what appeared to be a pre-filled-out ballot circulated widely over the weekend and was retweeted by Eric Trump, the president’s son, to 4.3 million followers on Twitter. Although it looked nefarious, in an interview with FactCheck.org, an official with the New York Board of Election solved the mystery.
It turned out that the voter received a blank ballot, filled it out, and accidentally mailed it to themselves, receiving it back at their address. Officials were able to figure out what happened because the voter’s ID was clearly visible in the photo.
“This is the height of irresponsibility to continue to make these false claims” the New York Board of Elections tweeted.
Local press covered the falsehood, which spread widely across social media, where the decontextualized image received thousands of likes, shares, and comments. Twitter and Facebook have both labeled the claim as misleading.
2. A former US intelligence chief shared a misleading photo of Joe Biden without a mask.
Richard Grenell, a Trump supporter and the former acting director of national intelligence, falsely claimed a photo of a maskless Joe Biden showed the former vice president not following his own advice to wear a mask during the pandemic. In fact, the photo was taken before the pandemic, in November 2019, as made clear by the caption in Vogue magazine where it originally ran.
As CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski noted, the misleading tweet was also spread by conservative commentator Mark Levin, garnering more than 50,000 additional likes and retweets.
3. No, campaign posters were not hung within 10 feet of a polling place in Philadelphia.
Images purporting to show campaign posters within 10 feet of a polling location — that's not allowed — are "deliberately misleading," according to the city's district attorney's office.
In an email to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for the office confirmed that the tweets are false and pointed to the electioneering rules in Philadelphia.
"What's described in that tweet is disinformation," she said. "I should note that we received no complaints regarding what is being alleged about that location."
The falsehood was posted by a reporter from conservative outlet Newsmax and amplified by a member of the White House staff. The photos have since spread to Facebook and Instagram.
4. A video showing a poll watcher being prevented from entering a polling location lacks key context.
According to a staffer at the Philadelphia city commissioners office, the situation depicted in the video really did happen, but there's more to it than what's shown.
"It was an honest mistake," spokesperson Kevin Feeley said in a phone call.
The poll watcher had a different ward than what was at on his certificate, Feeley said, and the worker misinterpreted the law and didn't allow him in. An older version of the law said that watchers must be assigned to specific wards.
According to Feeley, after the error was realized, it was corrected. “This person was allowed to enter and is there now,” he said.
A spokesperson for the district attorney's office also said, “Our Election Task Force has not received any complaints that fit what is being described or alleged in that tweet.”
5. No, former president George W. Bush did not endorse Joe Biden.
A person on Twitter has been spreading the false claim the former president George W. Bush endorsed Joe Biden.
While hundreds of former Bush administration officials have endorsed the former vice president, a Bush spokesperson previously said the 43rd president “is retired from presidential politics and has not indicated how he will vote.”
The Dallas Morning News reported on Nov. 2 that the former president would not reveal how he voted in this election.
The @mankindtracer account, meanwhile, has been trying to spread the false claim by tweeting it at high-profile accounts.
6. No, a Trump supporter was not blocking a polling place in New Jersey.
The Clifton Police Department said "that's incorrect," when asked about the claim.
"I just got off the phone with the city manager, and he said they checked it out and there's nobody there," a Passaic County Board of Elections spokesperson said.
7. Black Lives Matter protesters did not block a polling station in North Carolina.
A Twitter account, @unclesamsnation, falsely claimed that Black Lives Matter protesters were "blocking polls" in North Carolina. The video used in the tweet was shot on Oct. 31 and showed police in Graham, North Carolina, aggressively reacting to a local march to the polls. The group held a rally encouraging people to vote, but they were prevented from concluding the planned march to an early voting site.
The tweet was later deleted.
8. No, a Pennsylvania poll worker did not throw out Trump votes.
A person on Instagram spread the false claim that they had thrown out “over a hundred ballots for trump” while working at a polling station in Pennsylvania.
“He is not one of our poll workers and there is no one with that name registered to vote in Erie, PA,” Amy Dalessandro, an election coordinator at the Erie County Courthouse polling location, told New York Times reporter Davey Alba.
9. These pallets of bricks are not suspicious and have nothing to do with the election.
This photo shows pallets of bricks on a sidewalk in what a person on Twitter said was Chicago. He also claimed the bricks “mysteriously” showed up.
There's nothing mysterious about the bricks. As reported by Mikael Thalen in a detailed Twitter thread, the bricks were used to build a patio wall for a nearby restaurant. Thalen also established that the photo was old and that the bricks were no longer on the sidewalk.
The misleading tweet garnered attention because it evoked the claims about bricks that spread during protests after police killed George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. At the time, BuzzFeed News investigated more than 15 claims that bricks were being deliberately placed near protests as a way to instigate chaos. In every example, there was a reasonable explanation for the bricks.
That's also the case with another Election Day post about bricks. A person on Facebook shared images of pallets of bricks in Detroit and claimed that they could be used in riots. The Detroit Free Press reported that the bricks were being used to build a wall.
10. Many sources, like the one below, are making unverifiable speculations about the outcome tonight. Rely on official election results and avoid trusting accounts that don't cite sources.
Experts expect online misinformation to include false results. You can see genuine results as they come in here.
11. Yes, a Democratic woman really did ask a poll observer in Philadelphia to leave, although she was wrong and the poll watcher never left.
A video showing a verbal altercation at a polling station in Pennsylvania in which a local Democratic official asked a Republican poll watcher to leave is genuine, officials confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
But there’s more to the story.
Kevin Feeley, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia City Commissioners, said the poll watcher in the video never left the polling station, and that the altercation was the result of a misunderstanding.
Feeley told BuzzFeed News that his office sent a senior state election official to the polling station to investigate. They found that the woman in the video had misunderstood new regulations, which now allow poll watchers to remain for the duration of polls being open.
“That’s not how it worked in the past,” Feeley said.
A concern with the coronavirus also came up, Feeley said, because the polling station was located at a seniors’ residence. Once the situation was made clear, the Democrat apologized.
“I’m sorry that happened to her,” Feeley added. “It shouldn’t happen to anybody.”
Ultimately, the Republican poll watcher stayed and was later joined by one from the Democratic Party.
Otillia Steadman contributed reporting to this story.