Debunking the election's most widespread voter fraud claims – CNET

Voter Fraud

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The Nov. 3 election was called two weeks ago for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate. But spend any time on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube and you might think the vote was still going on.

Social media is littered with bogus claims — many of them amplified by President Donald Trump — that voter fraud ran rampant, a supercomputer changed votes, and thousands of zombies voted. None of this is remotely true. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, created by the Trump administration to protect elections, called the vote “the most secure in American history.” Election officials across the country have echoed that assessment. (Trump fired Christopher Krebs, the director of the CISA, for debunking rumors of election fraud.)

The online nonsense has created a massive game of whack-a-mole for social media companies, which are shellacking problematic posts with labels that say the claims of fraud are disputed and voter fraud is rare, and that include a link to the CISA’s page on election integrity.

Here are some of the most outlandish stories running amok online. And just to be clear: They’re all bogus.

Votes were changed in Michigan

The claim: During the vote count in Michigan, Trump’s lead suspiciously transformed into Biden victories in some counties.

The facts: Trump led Biden on the evening of Election Day and for part of the following morning. Then Biden votes began to pick up. Many Republican voters cast their ballots at polling stations, on Trump’s advice, so their votes were counted quickly. But Michigan law didn’t allow for a head start on counting mail-in ballots, which were used in record numbers — and heavily by Democrats — because of COVID-19. So the counting of mail-in ballots took time, and as those votes were counted, the candidates’ positions began to change.

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Still, the swing in votes prompted a cascade of conspiracy theories as soon as it was noticed. On the morning of Nov. 4, one conservative pundit tweeted an image of an electoral map that showed Biden acquiring roughly 138,000 votes during an overnight count, while Trump didn’t receive any. The big rise for Biden without any additional votes for Trump seemed odd to many of the Twitterati, and the tweet went viral. Trump retweeted it a few hours later. 

The source of the image, Decision Desk HQ, later tweeted that an error had occurred with results in one county. The election analysis firm updated its results shortly after Michigan state officials corrected their numbers. The original tweet by the conservative pundit was eventually deleted

Dominion voting machines deleted votes

The claim: One America News Network, a right-wing publication, reported that 2.7 million votes for Trump were deleted by Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of voting machines used in some states. Trump was quick to share the story on Twitter, which labeled it as disputed.

The facts: OANN sourced its report to an analysis from Edison Research, an exit-polling company that provides election data to a number of news outlets. But Dominion issued a series of fact checks, one of which quotes Edison’s president as saying that “Edison Research created no such report and we are not aware of any voter fraud.”

Dominion added that the voting results are 100% auditable. 

Poll watchers couldn’t properly observe vote counts

The claim: In Pennsylvania, poll watchers were prevented from effectively observing the count taking place. 

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The facts: The Trump campaign has filed multiple lawsuits in Pennsylvania claiming poll watchers, who represent their parties and are credentialed by the commonwealth, were too far away to observe ballot counting.

Because of COVID, poll watchers were moved 20 feet away from the people conducting the count. But large flat-screen televisions set up for the poll watchers displayed ballots being counted. After a Trump lawsuit during the count prevailed, the poll watchers were moved to a distance of six feet. Still, some Trump supporters maintain that observers weren’t given adequate access.

A postal worker said there were orders to backdate ballots

The claim: A USPS worker in Pennsylvania says he overheard the postmaster at his mail facility direct workers to backdate mail-in ballots so they looked like they were received on Election Day. 

The facts: Project Veritas, a conservative activist group, published an interview with Richard Hopkins, a postal carrier in Erie, Penn., who said he overheard a postmaster order a supervisor to backdate mail-in ballots. Postmaster Robert Weisenbach said on Nov. 8 that the allegations were “100% false.” Federal investigators spoke with Hopkins a few days later and he recanted his story.

The election results don’t conform to Benford’s law

The claim: Biden’s vote totals don’t follow Benford’s law, a mathematical insight into the distribution of numbers. The claim says Trump’s vote totals do. 

The facts: Benford’s law says you’re more likely to find that the leading digits in large data sets start with small numbers, such as 1 or 2. The law is used in forensic accounting to help identify potential fraud. 

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Days after the election, rumors that Biden’s results didn’t conform to Benford’s law began spreading online. They were quickly debunked by Dr. Jen Golbeck, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland, who noted that the numbers being used in the bogus claim were incomplete. The numbers also weren’t sourced.

Dead people voted

The claim: People who’ve been dead for years voted for Biden in Michigan. 

The facts: Days after the election, social media posts began circulating that 14,000 dead Michiganders voted for Biden. Though voter rolls often contain the names of dead citizens — you can’t unregister to vote when you’re six feet under — there’s no proof such names were used to cast votes.

A supercomputer changed votes

The claim: A CIA-developed supercomputer called Hammer and program called Scorecard were used to change votes on Election Day. 

The facts: Former intelligence contractor Dennis Montgomery claims he developed a foreign surveillance system called Hammer and a program called Scorecard that can hack into voter machines. He also claims this tech was used by the Obama administration to change elections in foreign countries. But Krebs, the now-former director of the CISA, said in a tweet that Hammer and Scorecard “is not a real thing.”

Claims that this system changed election results began circulating online days after the election and were propped up by Sidney Powell, a member of Trump’s legal team. She said on Newsmax, a right-wing media outlet, that Hammer and Scorecard could’ve been used to turn the election in Biden’s favor. 

A group of election security specialists also penned a letter that said there was no credible evidence of computer fraud in the 2020 elections


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