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AFP: Some Of The False And Misleading Election Fraud Claims

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Allegations of fraud and foul play in the 2020 US election spread across the internet as officials counted ballots in battleground states that will determine the outcome of the closely fought vote between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

The claims echo repeated unfounded predictions by Trump and his campaign that fraud would occur, casting doubt on the results and laying the groundwork for legal challenges.

Challenging the results soon after polls closed, Trump tweeted that: “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election.”

A screenshot of a tweet taken on November 4, 2020

AFP examines several other claims of fraud that are circulating online.

Burned ballots in Virginia

Trump’s son Eric claimed on Twitter that 80 ballots cast for the president were burned.

“Burning 80 Trump Ballots,” Eric Trump wrote in a tweet, spreading a claim from a now-suspended account that included a video clip of the alleged incident, which is no longer viewable.

A screenshot of tweet taken on November 5, 2020

But the City of Virginia Beach responded to his tweet, saying: “Those were sample ballots,” and linking to a statement.

“A concerned citizen shared a video with us that ostensibly shows someone burning ballots. They are NOT official ballots, they are sample ballots,” the statement said, referring readers to “the attached freeze frame image and photo of the official ballots, which have the bar codes.”

Biden surge in Michigan

The number of reported votes for Biden, the Democratic candidate, jumped by more than 138,000 on the morning of November 4, 2020, drawing online accusations of foul play.

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“So while everyone was asleep and after everyone went home, Democrats in Michigan magically found a trove of 138,339 votes, and all 138,339 of those ‘votes’ magically went to Biden? That doesn’t look suspicious at all,” one Twitter user wrote.

A screenshot of a tweet taken on November 4, 2020

But it was caused by human error when a zero was added as votes were counted. The mistake was quickly fixed after state officials noticed it, but a real-time report by an independent analyst fed claims of fraud online.

Caroline Wilson, county clerk for the central Michigan county of Shiawassee, told AFP. “I added an extra zero accidentally,” thereby reporting 153,710 votes for Biden instead of 15,371.

“The minute it was discovered, it was corrected, probably within 20 minutes, so I’m amazed how fast this spread,” Wilson said.

When the figure was lowered by the correction, 138,339 votes were removed from Biden’s total tally without any changes to Trump’s numbers.

Sharpie pen fraud in Arizona

Social media users  claimed that Arizona voters were pushed to use Sharpie pens on their ballots in a bid to make them illegible and keep votes for Trump from being counted.

“The poll workers were taking the pens from voters and making them use Sharpies. Sharpies bleed through. All of the votes marked with Sharpies couldn’t be read,” said one Facebook post.

A screenshot of a Facebook post taken on November 4, 2020

It included a video in which a man said: “People are coming here to vote for Donald Trump, and those votes are all getting invalidated.”

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But officials — including Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — said using a Sharpie would not invalidate ballots, while voters also had the option of bringing their own pens.

“IMPORTANT: If you voted a regular ballot in-person, your ballot will be counted, no matter what kind of pen you used (even a Sharpie)!” Hobbs wrote on Twitter — an assessment echoed by the election department of the state’s most populous county.

Too many voters in Wisconsin

Posts on social media claimed that the number of people who cast ballots in Wisconsin exceeded the total number of registered voters.

“WISCONSIN REPORTING 101+% VOTER TURNOUT! 3,170,206 Votes Counted. 3,129,000 Registered Voters,” an Instagram post said.

A screenshot of an Instagram post taken on November 4, 2020

But it and other posts used an inaccurate number for registered voters. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the figure stood at 3,684,726 as of November 1 — and it may have risen since.

Reid Magney, Public Information Officer of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, warned of numbers mentioned in online reports and that could be several days older.

“Wisconsin has election day registration… Typically hundreds of thousands of people register to vote on election day across the state,” he said.

Biden jump in Wisconsin

Online claims that votes were fraudulently added to Biden’s tally in the battleground of Wisconsin relied on a graph that showed a sharp jump for the Democrat.

“Voter Fraud in Wisconsin — Massive Dump of Over 100,000 Ballots for Biden All the Sudden Appear Overnight,” reads the headline of an article by right-wing website Gateway Pundit, before projections showed Biden winning the Midwestern state.

A screenshot taken on November 6, 2020 shows the headline of an article

The article is based on a graph from analysts at FiveThirtyEight, which shows a sudden surge in votes for Biden between midnight and 6:00 am on November 4. But it does not point to fraud.

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The graph was published on FiveThirtyEight’s election live feed in the morning of November 4, based on data from ABC News as of 6:23 am that day.

“There’s nothing ‘magical’ about these vote drops: counties simply released a large batch of results all at once,” Curt Villarosa of ABC News, which owns FiveThirtyEight, said in an email.

“And these batches were NOT 100% Biden votes,” he added. “Behind the blue line, there is also a red line representing the thousands of votes Trump GAINED.”


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