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2018 Midterm Elections / Debunked

Here’s A Running List Of Hoaxes And Misleading Information About The Midterm Elections

Attempts to confuse voters have already started circulating across social media.

Last updated on November 6, 2018, at 9:03 p.m. ET

Posted on October 31, 2018, at 1:38 p.m. ET

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BuzzFeed News is tracking and debunking the dubious rumors, memes, and falsehoods related to the midterm elections. If you see something we haven’t covered, get in touch through email (jane.lytvynenko@buzzfeed.com) or Twitter (@JaneLytv).

This post will be updated through Election Day 2018.

For more information on who your candidates are, visit Ballotpedia.org, and for information on how to vote, head to Vote.org.

Updates

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A video that falsely claims to show voter fraud continues to circulate on social media despite the county election board debunking it.

Instagram

The Franklin County Board of Elections issued a statement after the video went viral on Instagram and Twitter saying, "After reviewing the video and our Election Day Issue Tracking software, we determined that particular machine had a paper jam and was taken off line. The voter in question was moved to another machine and cast their vote with no issues. The time stamp on the paper tape and the electronic poll book confirm the jam, as does the contemporaneous report of the incident by the polling official logged into the issue tracking software."

After a BuzzFeed News inquiry about the video, it was removed from Facebook and Instagram.

“This content is being removed from Facebook and Instagram per our voter suppression policies," a Facebook spokesperson said. The video remains live on Twitter.

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Kim Davis did not lose an election to the man she refused to issue a same-sex marriage license to.

Kim Davis rose to prominence in 2015 when she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses in her role as a county clerk in Kentucky. David Ermold was the man she denied a license to, and he later sought the Democratic nomination to run against her in 2018.

Davis lost her reelection bid tonight — but not to Ermold. His campaign to become the Democratic nominee failed in May when he lost to Elwood Caudill Jr., who worked in the county property valuation office.

Caudill is now the clerk of Rowan County, in spite of what some viral tweets are claiming.

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A citizen militia did not detain buses of undocumented immigrants at the US border who were trying to vote.

Twitter

The account spreading these claims is using images taken from older, unrelated events in order to make false claims and engage in trolling.

The photo above on the left is from California in 2014. The one on the right is also from the same event.

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Two busloads of “illegals” were not paid to vote for Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke.

Twitter

New York Times best-selling author and history professor Larry Schweikart sent a tweet that falsely claimed busloads of “illegals” were caught at the Texas border with cash in hand, on their way to vote for Beto O’Rourke.

Schweikart told BuzzFeed News he first saw the information on the conservative website FreeRepublic.com, but a search of the site only turned up a post linking to his tweet.

“Well, it’s just a report. Hey, fake news, right?” he said when asked if he was worried about spreading false information.

Read our full story, “A Best-Selling Conservative Author Spread a False Claim About Beto Paying ‘Illegals’ to Vote.”

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Yes, an NBC News truck took a parking spot for people with disabilities, but it did not prevent a vet with disabilities from voting.

Daily Wire

The Daily Wire published an article with a misleading headline. Citing a Facebook post from Oct. 30, it said a veteran with disabilities was prevented from voting because an NBC News crew took a parking spot for people with disabilities. It’s true that NBC parked there, and later apologized, but the veteran who posted about the incident on Facebook did not say he was prevented from voting.

“Went to vote, and found this waiting for us,” his Facebook post says. “The only van accessible spot and they’re filming in it. We asked them to move, pointed out how it was wrong, then went to vote, because it takes time to load up. But came out and still there.”

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ICE will not be patrolling polling stations.

Facebook / Twitter

Rumors on social media and a flyer distributed in Milwaukee falsely claimed that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers would patrol polling stations on Election Day. The suggestion was that agents would be checking voters for ID in order to detain any undocumented immigrants trying to vote.

“Rumors that ICE plans to engage in patrols or enforcement operations at polling locations are false,” an ICE spokesperson told ProPublica. “Any flyers or advertisements claiming otherwise are incorrect and not sanctioned by ICE.”

ICE also sent a tweet to reinforce that these claims are false:

ICE does not patrol or conduct enforcement operations at polling locations. Any flyers or advertisements claiming otherwise are false. https://t.co/OiTdD5tVCA

Facebook told CNN that it removed posts spreading this false claim:

Facebook says it has removed posts falsely claiming that Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents were patrolling polling locations looking for undocumented immigrants, @donie reports.

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This video does not expose voter fraud. It shows a student receiving a voter ID.

Twitter

A video first published by a conservative think tank is being presented as proof of voter fraud, but it’s misleading. Thin on details, the video shows someone who claims to not be a US citizen receiving a voter ID from the University of Wisconsin.

Even with the ID, students still need to register to vote. The post on the think tank’s website acknowledges that there’s nothing illegal about this, but the video taken out of context is being used as false evidence of voter fraud.

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There are reports of fake signs spoofing Democrats in Florida.

The Instagram account for the Democratic Party in Seminole County, Florida, shared examples of fake signs it says have targeted the party. People in the comments said they’ve seen the signs, which carry messages like “Abolish ICE” and “Open Our Borders.”

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Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum's siblings have not been charged with voter fraud.

Facebook / Via Facebook: 1419496455

No one in Gillum's family has been charged with anything related to voter fraud.

However, Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley confirmed to BuzzFeed News there is an open investigation into Marcus Gillum, the candidate's brother, over whether he voted in Florida while being a legal resident of Chicago. That's a possible felony under Florida law. The investigation was opened in October in response to a Breitbart report.

"We sent off the certified letter to the address was have on file for [Marcus Gillum] and we are waiting to hear back from him," Earley told BuzzFeed News. "We are now in the 30-day window for a response before we initiate an eligibility hearing."

The investigation remains open as the country awaits his response. Earley said that his office is not currently investigating Monique Gillum's voting record.

The false meme was originally posted in late October, but it began spreading again in Facebook groups and on pages as Election Day approached:

CrowdTangle
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Don't believe "early voting" numbers in Michigan. There is no early voting in that state.

Twitter

According to the Michigan Secretary of State website, there is no early voting available. It's also not immediately clear where Bill Mitchell found the estimated turnout numbers he tweeted.

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A Facebook post claiming Kurt Russell praised Donald Trump's courage and determination is fake.

Facebook

A Facebook post falsely attributing a pro-Trump quote to Kurt Russell seems to have copied the text from a Tweet that was posted a few days earlier.

"President Donald J. Trump is relentless," the false post and tweet sad. "I've never seen a man so dedicated & determined. I'd like to think I would be as courageous as he is, but I just don't know. The world is after him & he stands there in the face of pure evil, rock solid & ready to fight for us. God bless this brave man."

The hoax got over 6,000 shares and 8,300 reactions on Facebook.

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The Pope did not encourage migrants to "pile up" at the American border. His speech was taken out of context.

Pulpit & Pen

On Oct. 29, Pope Francis delivered a speech about migration. Addressing missionaries, not migrants, he called on the audience to welcome migrants. Right wing websites like Pulpit & Pen, Daily Wire, Jews News, and Maga Voter misconstrued the Pope’s speech. The stories collectively garnered thousands of likes, shares, and comments on Facebook, especially in Facebook groups, according to social tracking tool CrowdTangle.

Specifically, the phrase “pile up” used in headlines actually came from Google Translate, and did not reflect his message. The Pope was using the caravan traveling to the US as an example of how migrants gather together and form communities. He was not instructing them to mass on the American border. This is not the first time Pope Francis has been the subject of misinformation. During the 2016 election, a false story about him endorsing Donald Trump spread wider than most legitimate coverage of the election.

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The North Dakota Democrats ran a misleading Facebook ad discouraging hunters from voting.

Facebook

The North Dakota Democratic Party placed a misleading Facebook ad warning people they could lose their out-of-state hunting licenses if they vote in the midterm elections.

“ATTENTION HUNTERS: If you vote in North Dakota, you may forfeit hunting licenses you have in other states,” read one variation of the Facebook ad, which is still active on Facebook as of this writing. “If you want to keep your out-of-state hunting licenses, you may not want to vote in North Dakota.”

The North Dakota GOP is now condemning the ad as an example of voter suppression. The party’s ad is also misleading, as it’s not clear whether people would in fact lose an out-of-state hunting license by voting. Hunting license regulations vary by state and, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, some states allow hunters to purchase out-of-state licenses. Read more in this BuzzFeed News story.

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This image, shared by Illinois Republican candidate Dr. Nick Stella, does not show a street in the United States. It’s actually a town in England.

Facebook

The Facebook page for Dr. Nick Stella, the Republican candidate for the 11th Congressional District for Illinois, used this photo for an ad it recently ran on Facebook. The campaign photoshopped in the billboard of Nancy Pelosi and used language that created the impression it showed an economically depressed town in the United States.

In fact, the photo shows Jaywick Sands in Essex, England. It’s also out of date, according to Paul Honeywood, a Tendring District Council Cabinet member with responsibility for Jaywick Sands. He told BuzzFeed News it was appalling to use the image for political gain in this way.

“For starters, Dr Stella is very out of date — Essex County Council completed a two-year £6.5 million programme to improve the roads and drainage in Jaywick Sands in 2017,” he said.

Stella’s Facebook page is no longer online. BuzzFeed News has reached out to Facebook for comment.

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People in the first migrant caravan did not attack the Mexican police.

Facebook

With tens of thousands of shares across social networks, photos taken out of context are being used to smear migrants taking part in the caravan headed to the United States.

While the Mexican police allege that there was violence from members of the second caravan, according to the Associated Press, the false rumors and out-of-context images circulated long before it was even formed.

These images falsely claim to show migrants physically attacked Mexican police. The falsehood even got a nod from Donald Trump in a recent tweet, where he called people in the caravan, largely women and children, “bad thugs and gang members.”

There is no evidence that people in the first caravan were causing violence. The photographer who took the photo of a bloodied officer later described what was really going on in the images:

@3r1nG @ExploitingNiche @JaneLytv @Revolucion3_0 Esta foto la tomé el día 15 de Octubre del 2012 en Tiripetio Michoacán, la Policía Federal entró a la Normal de Tiripetio y hubo un enfrentamiento entre estudiantes y policías.

He said he took it on Oct. 15, 2012, and that “there was a confrontation between students and police.” The images being spread have nothing to do with the caravan.

See all the hoaxes and falsehoods about the caravan.

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The pipe bomb suspect is not a registered Democrat. He is a registered Republican.

Twitter

Cesar Altieri Sayoc registered as a member of the Republican Party before the 2016 election, according to Miami-Dade County voting records. Laura Loomer, a right-wing internet personality, has a history of spreading conspiracy theories, as does right-wing commentator Bill Mitchell.

Read more about the misinformation surrounding the pipe bomb scares here.

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The Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, Stacey Abrams, did not pose with a “communist” and “#MuslimBrotherhood” sign.

The image has been shared across Facebook and Twitter, but it’s just second-rate photoshop.
Twitter

The image has been shared across Facebook and Twitter, but it’s just second-rate photoshop.

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A racist robocall is spoofing Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

Racist robocalls target Florida's first African-American gubernatorial nominee @AndrewGillum in support of Republican candidate @RonDeSantisFL (WARNING: EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE) https://t.co/3UEi0RYgTS

For months now, a racist robocall spread by a neo-Nazi podcast has been targeting the Democratic nominee for governor in Florida, Andrew Gillum. The call pretends to be Gillum and uses racist language and stereotypes meant to discourage voters from supporting Gillum.

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, a spokesperson for Gillum’s campaign said, “This is reprehensible — and could only have come from someone with intentions to fuel hatred and seek attention. Please don’t give it undeserved attention.”

A campaign spokesperson for Gillum’s opponent, Ron DeSantis, also condemned the robocall.

“This is absolutely appalling and disgusting — and hopefully whoever is behind this has to answer for this despicable action. Our campaign has and will continue to focus solely on the issues that Floridians care about and uniting our state as we continue to build on our success.”

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An attack ad is spreading falsehoods about Southern California candidate for Congress Ammar Campa-Najjar.

The ad from the campaign of incumbent Duncan Hunter spread a slew of falsehoods about Campa-Najjar, as NPR reported. It uses racist stereotypes about Campa-Najjar to baselessly say he has “terrorists ties” and plans to “infiltrate Congress.” The ad completely ignores real biographical details, the Washington Post reports, in favor of pushing the fearmongering.

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Baseless, years-old conspiracy theories are still trying to tie George Soros to voting machine manipulation.

Facebook

A meme demanding George Soros “remove his voting machines from all states” has gone viral on Facebook, but there is no truth to it. With well over 14,000 likes and 15,000 shares, the image spread across the social network and inspired anti-Semitic comments from those who bought into the disinformation. But there are no Soros-owned voting machines.

A similar conspiracy was spread during the 2016 election with the help of right-wing websites like the Daily Caller. BuzzFeed News, Snopes, and others investigated the claim and showed they were false. A similar hoax was spread during the 2012 election campaign.

The crux of the claim was that electronic voting company Smartmatic is controlled by Soros, but the company has no ties to the Hungarian billionaire.

The false claims began to recirculate on election day, thanks to people posting them in Facebook groups and elsewhere:

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Eric Brakey, the Republican nominee for Senate in Maine, spread a hoax conspiracy about ISIS fighters being in the refugee caravan.

Twitter

In a tweet that got over 700 likes and 500 retweets, Brakey claimed without a source or proof that ISIS plans to infiltrate the caravan and that there are ISIS operatives in Central America.

It’s true that Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, while speaking at a regional security forum in Washington on Oct. 11, made the claim that his country “has arrested almost 100 people highly linked to terrorist groups, specifically ISIS. We have not only detained them in our territory; they have also been deported to their countries of origin.”

However, Morales didn’t elaborate or provide any proof. At no point did he mention the caravan, which at that point hadn’t even reached the Honduras–Guatemala border, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The comments form Morales went largely unnoticed until far-right sites picked it up and falsely linked it to the caravan. The conspiracy went mainstream when it was propagated by Fox News and Donald Trump. In reality, the Department of State has consistently said there is no credible terrorist threat at the US–Mexico border.

You can see all the hoaxes and falsehoods about the caravan here.

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An old attack on Minnesota Congress candidate Ilhan Omar is being spread again by her opponents and right-wing media.

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In 2016, Ilhan Omar became the first Somali American legislator elected in the US. She was also targeted with an onslaught of political disinformation. The baseless and false claims said she married her brother in order for him to get citizenship. Now that she’s running for Congress, the same line of attack is being used against her.

One source of a slew of misleading stories about Omar is StopIlhan.com, which is affiliated with her opponent, Jennifer Zielinski.

The false claim about Omar and her brother was also recirculated in a recent story from PJ Media. It gathered over 55,000 Facebook likes, comments, and shares, according to social tracking tool BuzzSumo. Other right-wing outlets, like Breitbart, Daily Caller, WND, Jihad Watch, and Sons of Liberty, also amplified the false claim and received thousands of engagements across social media platforms.

Omar’s campaign, in a statement to the Associated Press, called the claims “disgusting lies.” The report from the Associated Press thoroughly debunked the marriage claims furthered by Omar’s opponents. It noted that she is the youngest of seven siblings, and according to the marriage certificate obtained by AP, Omar’s ex-husband Ahmed Nur Said Elmi (the target of the disinformation) is three years younger than her. She does not have a younger brother.

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Matt Gaetz, a Florida member of Congress up for reelection, shared an unverified video of the refugee caravan and claimed it might show people being paid by George Soros or US NGOs to participate.

Twitter

Gaetz got the location wrong and there is no evidence that the scene in the video shows people being paid to take part. The video came from an unknown source, and to date, the full details have not been confirmed.

Gaetz later posted that he was misled about the location where the video was taken but issued no retraction. His tweet has been amplified across social media platforms, and the same video was tweeted by Donald Trump.

When BuzzFeed News reached out to the person who first posted it to Facebook, he did not respond when asked about its source.

As of now, there is no evidence supporting claims that the caravan is engineered by — or receiving funding from — Soros, the UN, or the Democrats. Regardless, Gaetz’s tweet fooled many social media users and continues to spark hateful comments online.


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