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US midterms: Misleading election claims fact-checked

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Image source, Getty Images

The US midterm elections saw several false and unsubstantiated rumours circulating online, with suggestions that the vote in certain states was being rigged.

We’ve looked at some of the most widely shared claims.

Arizona voting machine problems

About a fifth of voting machines in Maricopa County, which includes the state’s largest city, Phoenix, malfunctioned early on Tuesday due to a printer error.

This slowed down voting, but election officials said every vote would be counted and that they were working to fix the problem.

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The glitch prompted claims that the vote was being rigged.

Former President Donald Trump said: “They are trying to steal the election with bad machines and delay. Don’t let it happen.”

Voting machines in Arizona

Image source, Getty Images

Kari Lake, the Arizona Republican candidate for governor, did not immediately claim fraud but in an interview said: “I hope there’s been no malice involved, I know there’s been incompetency.”

Election officials also reassured voters they had a backup plan in place if machines malfunctioned, posting a video showing people how to place their ballot in the secure drop box attached to the machine.

Ms Lake tweeted that any votes put in this drop box would “likely not be counted for weeks”.

But election officials disputed that, saying ballots in the drop box would be counted on election day. Ms Lake later deleted the tweet.

She has previously falsely claimed the 2020 election was won by Donald Trump.

Charlie Kirk, a prominent conservative pundit, tweeted that there was a “two hour wait minimum at most polling places in Maricopa”. It’s unclear where he got that information, but it was denied by county election officials.

A judge in Maricopa County rejected a Republican request to keep polls open past their usual closing time, as they had provided no evidence that a voter was not able to cast a ballot because of the machine problems.

Election worker writing on ballots

A brief clip of a poll worker appearing to mark ballots, shown as part of a news montage, sent some people drawing the false conclusion that the man was altering votes.

One tweet, which was shared more than 11,000 times, posted the clip saying: “Rigging ballots live on TV.”

Tweet with false tag

But officials in Dane County, Wisconsin, where the video was taken, say that the worker was doing his job normally.

Before passing the ballot on, election workers circle the correct local election ward printed on the ballot and initial it.

“This process is required by law and is a routine part of the check and balance process,” county clerk Scott McDonell said in a statement.

“It is done in a public setting and the ballot would then need to be signed by a different poll worker before being handed to the voter.”

‘Sharpiegate’ claims resurface

Some of the debunked viral claims from the 2020 election have been seeing a resurgence this time around.

One of them is “Sharpiegate” – the false claim that a voter’s ballot won’t be counted if they use a Sharpie pen (permanent marker) to fill it in.

The claim was widely circulated in Arizona two years ago, despite election authorities confirming it was baseless.

One tweet from an Illinois-based account this time said: “La Grange Precinct 89 voters report sharpies being used on ballots, which isn’t allowed. No sharpies on ballots.”

The claim was also reported by a right-wing outlet The Gateway Pundit.

However, the Illinois State Board of Elections said that “sharpie pens are the preferred ballot-marking method for many voting systems”.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

It added that ballots are “intentionally designed so that bleed through does not cause a problem.”

Bleed through is when ink seeps from one side of the paper to the other.

Twitter has since flagged the original post as “misleading”.

Georgia poll worker sacked

A woman said in a widely circulated tweet that she was “kicked out” along with her son as poll workers trying to “ensure a free and fair election” in Fulton County, Georgia.

But officials said Laura Kronen was sacked because she was at the US Capitol in Washington during the riot on 6 January 2021.

Poll watcher tweet with false banner

She was removed on Tuesday morning after social media posts were discovered that linked her to the storming of the US Capitol, according to state officials.

Ms Kronen had boasted on Facebook about being in Washington that day, writing: “I stormed the Capitol building.”

Officials said that they also learned about a post in which the woman “seemed to imply” that she was going to videotape some of her work at the polling place, which is forbidden.

On discovering this information, local officials approached the secretary of state’s office for review.

“They agree with the concern,” said a Fulton County spokeswoman. “Out of the safety for the election, we decided to remove them until we can complete the investigation.”

In messages sent to the BBC, Ms Kronen denied that she or any of her family members entered the Capitol building, and said she was unaware of the violence going on inside.

“I meant we were all at the rally… and walking to the Capitol together,” she said.

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