NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what did not happen last week
A look at false and misleading claims and videos in the days after President-elect Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
No evidence that people are stealing maiden names to vote
CLAIM: Voter fraud has been found after women’s maiden names were used to cast ballots in other states.
THE FACTS: The false narrative that women’s maiden names were being used without their knowledge to cast votes in other states circulated with the hashtag #maidengate, and was targeted at states including battlegrounds Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania. “Voter fraud strategy discovered. Married women’s maiden name was used to register and stack up extra votes. #MaidenGate,” one tweet said. Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for Common Cause, a nonpartisan election watchdog group, told the AP, “There’s no evidence of this taking place." Jason Roberts, political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that in order to pull off this feat, a voter would have to go into another state and know the address and former name of a person. They would also have to know that the person’s voter registration in the state was not already deactivated. Numerous safeguards are in place to detect voting fraud like this. “You then have to state their name, state their address and sign an affidavit saying this was you,” Roberts said. “All of this is under penalty of felony, and then vote.” Even then, when a person first registers to vote, a form of ID is typically required. Albert said that under the Help America Vote Act, the first time anyone votes it has to be verified with identification. "Yes it’s possible for someone’s maiden name to be on the voter rolls during the time in which the name is being changed and the records are being updated,” Albert said. But voting using someone else’s identity is a crime and could not be accomplished by thousands of people in different states. “How are you going to coordinate 10,000 people to do this?” said Roberts.
— Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed this item.
132,000 ineligible ballots? Fulton County election officials call claim ‘baseless’
CLAIM: In Fulton County, Georgia, 132,000 ballots had a “change of address” and the votes are likely to be “ineligible.”
THE FACTS: On Nov. 8, false claims surfaced on social media regarding votes in Fulton County, home to the state's capital, Atlanta, where more than 522,000 people cast ballots in the presidential election. One Twitter user who shared the false information pointed to screenshots of supposed voter files, saying that there were 132,000 change of address notations, or “CoAs” for short. “We have access to voter files. That is our business,” wrote a Twitter user. “There are ≈132k CoA flags on the rolls in Fulton County, Georgia. First image excludes CoAs, the second does not. It’s not ‘disputed’. It is reality.” County election officials said the claims did not show an official elections database and were not true. “Fulton County is aware of allegations of 132,000 ballots being ‘flagged,’” Regina Waller, a spokesperson for Fulton County told the AP in an email. “These claims are simply false and baseless.” She said officials were not able to verify the source of the information “except that it is not any official election database used in Fulton County.” There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.
— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.
There's no evidence that dead people voted in Pennsylvania
CLAIM: Dead people in Pennsylvania voted in the 2020 presidential election.
THE FACTS: Election experts say false claims about dead voters come up every election. One tweet that repeated the false claim stated: “These are some of the people who voted in #PA...840 were 101 years old or older, 39 lived through the Civil War, 45 were born in the 1800s.” The tweet had over 18,000 retweets. Pennsylvania’s Office of Attorney General refuted claims that votes were cast through deceased people. “A similar complaint was brought before a PA court -- and soundly rejected,” the office said in a statement. “The court found no deficiency in how PA maintains its voter rolls, and there is currently no proof provided that any deceased person has voted in the 2020 election.” Some of the claims about dead voters appear to stem from an active federal lawsuit that alleges Pennsylvania failed to “maintain accurate and current voter rolls” that include 21,000 apparently deceased registrants. The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative group based in Indiana, amended the lawsuit on Nov. 5 against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar. “This case is about ensuring that those deceased registrants are not receiving ballots,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said in a statement. “This case isn’t complicated.” Election administration experts told The Associated Press that it is common for state voter rolls to include voters with birthdates that make them appear impossibly old, but these are usually explained by human error, software quirks or voter confidentiality issues. When the birthdate is entered, numbers could be accidentally flipped or simply mistyped, according to Tammy Patrick, a former Arizona election official who now works for the Democracy Fund, a foundation that works on voting issues. Election officials sometimes have reason to assign certain voters a standard birthdate, which may be in the far past. “Some states have a default ‘year of birth’ that they entered for registrations that lacked a year of birth on the old paper forms when voter registration was moved from paper to computer,” Jason Roberts, a professor of political science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told The Associated Press. “Those never get updated and as time goes on the voters with this issue look ‘older’ whether they are or not.” In Pennsylvania, some active voters are listed with the birthdate “01/01/1800.” That date is used for “confidentiality reasons of the registered voters,” such as if they’re victims of domestic violence, according to a state website. Claims that hundreds of people over 100 voted in Pennsylvania suggest something nefarious, but Matthew Weill, Elections Project director at Bipartisan Policy Center, said that is “not so crazy” in the year 2020. “There are tens of thousands of centenarians in the U.S.,” he said.
Fox News did not report that Soros owns the social network Parler
CLAIM: A photo shows a Fox News broadcast with a chyron that says: “Fox News confirms: George Soros is majority owner of new social platform Parler.”
THE FACTS: Social media users are circulating an image that claims to show a Fox News broadcast with a chyron that alerts viewers to a story that Parler, a conservative social media platform, is owned by liberal billionaire George Soros. No such chyron ran on Fox News during its broadcast, a spokeswoman confirmed to The Associated Press. Nor does Soros own the social media platform, a Parler spokesman said in an email. John Matze, the CEO of Parler, confirmed in a post on his site that he and a “small group of close friends and employees” own the company. “George Soros has absolutely no association in any capacity with Parler,” Matze wrote.
— Associated Press writer Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed this report.
Video does not show discarded ballots in Oklahoma
CLAIM: Video shows two men at a church wedding discovering discarded and torn ballots marked for President Donald Trump in the trash.
THE FACTS: Officials with the Oklahoma State Election Board said the video shows spoiled ballots where the voter marked more than one option. The ballots were discarded at a polling place. In a video viewed more than 150,000 times on Twitter, two men claim to have found ballots marked for Trump when they went out to take out the trash during a wedding at a church. We wanted to show you what we found,” one man says. The men then remove ballots from a trash bag, going through each one to show votes from Trump. “This is even happening in Oklahoma guys,” said one of the men, noting that Oklahoma votes “red” and overwhelmingly supported Trump. The Instagram video received thousands of shares online with some posts suggesting the men were in Nevada. The posts shared the video to allege fraud in the 2020 election. “Patriots at wedding in Oklahoma find DISCARDED & torn up ballots that were TRUMP VOTES! Isn’t it interesting… when WE find ballots that were thrown away they’re ALWAYS TRUMP Votes But when THEY find ballots that were not counted yet they’re ALWAYS ALL Biden VOTES,” one Twitter post said. The Oklahoma State Election Board addressed the video on Twitter explaining that it showed spoiled ballots in Tulsa County where the voter marked more than one option in a race. The board also shared a photo of affidavits signed by voters acknowledging their ballots were spoiled. “Here are screen shots from the video that clearly show the ballots have been spoiled,” the board said on Twitter. “We also are posting a redacted Spoiled Ballot Affidavit signed by voters before their spoiled ballots were destroyed.”
— Beatrice Dupuy
Majorly manipulated photo of Joe Biden’s dog circulating online
CLAIM: A photo of Major Biden, a German shepherd, shows the dog is nearly as tall as President-elect Joe Biden when he is seated.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The photo has been altered to make it appear Major is much larger than he is in real life.
THE FACTS: A photo being shared on Twitter and Facebook of Major has been majorly manipulated. “Biden’s dog is huge!” one Twitter user wrote, sharing a photo of Major that appears to show him nearly as tall and as wide as Biden when seated. America’s soon-to-be first dog isn’t that big. The original photo shows Biden seated on a bench at the Delaware Humane Association with Major sitting in front of him. The 10-month-old pup’s perked-up ears reach Biden’s chest. The photo was captured by one of the humane association’s employees on Nov. 16, 2018, the day that Biden adopted Major from the Wilmington, Delaware, animal shelter. “Only in our wildest dreams did we imagine Major would become First Dog Elect,” Cory Topel, the marketing manager for the Delaware Humane Association, said in an email. “We are so thrilled.” Major is one of two German shepherds that will get to play on the big White House lawn when the Bidens move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Jan. 20. Some social media users are so excited about Biden’s dogs, Major and Champ, that they created a Twitter account for them. The page gained more than 50,000 followers by Monday evening. The Biden campaign confirmed Monday that the account is not run by the campaign.
— Amanda Seitz
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