Online hoaxes about United States plans for mail-in voting spread quickly

Joanna Estrada
May 6, 2020

Hall County received and issued a record breaking number of mail-in ballots this year.

Tracy Overstreet, the Hall County election commissioner, said they received and issued almost 12,000 ballots, which is more than double the record set for early ballot requests during the 2016 General Election.

The May 5 election has local ballot items, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said her office asked these communities to delay items on their ballot until a later date. During the 2016 election, Russia-linked groups polluted United States voters' social media feeds with messages about hot-button topics like race relations, gun laws and immigration. So that has definitely surpassed that. "I think part of the reason for that is the state made a decision to send out an application to all voters in Hall County".

"People were allowed to vote in the office on Tuesday if they had applied for a ballot but did not yet receive one in the mail", Leuthold said. "I think that serves as a reminder that the election is coming up".

Negative chatter around mail-in ballots spiked in those Facebook groups after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed expanding early voting and mail-in voting last month, said Madelyn Webb, a research reporter for First Draft News, an organisation that tracks disinformation.

Several disinformation experts said they have not found evidence yet that foreign actors are covertly pushing a false narrative about mail-in voting.

The Hamilton County board of elections said approximately 550 voters showed up to cast an in-person ballot on April 28. They argue that November's election will bring what Politico described as an "unprecedented spike in demand for mail-in ballots and a reduction of poll workers and elections staff", citing coronavirus-related concerns. "But if people have any underlying circumstances that would prevent them from going to the polls, they can call", Overstreet said.

In-person votes were only available for those who met the approved criteria, and because of this some lawmakers believe the election violated of voter rights.

All three counties did have to change a few polling sites.

The board of elections will conduct the official vote count May 12 at 9 a.m.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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