Debunked: These viral videos do not reveal US election fraud as claimed

Screengrabs of three viral videos that allege U.S. election worker fraud. Following investigations, all three claims were revealed to be false.
Screengrabs of three viral videos that allege U.S. election worker fraud. Following investigations, all three claims were revealed to be false.

As President Trump raises doubt about the results of the 2020 US Presidential Election and files lawsuits claiming fraud in numerous states, many social media users have echoed these concerns, posting videos they allege reveal election worker fraud under hashtags like #StopTheSteal. Here are three of the most viral videos claiming to show fraud at the polls, and our explanations as to why these assertions are false.


Arizona poll workers are not invalidating Trump votes by forcing voters to use Sharpie pens

A video widely shared on Facebook and Twitter during the past week falsely claims that poll workers in the state of Arizona invalidated ballots for President Trump by forcing voters to use Sharpie pens, thereby rendering these ballots uncountable.

The original video, posted to Facebook by a Trump supporter on November 4, shows a conversation between a man (the person filming the video) and a woman in front of a voting booth in Maricopa county, Arizona. The video begins with the woman explaining that the ballots of the people in front of her were not read by the voting machine because they used Sharpies, while her ballot was read as she used a pen. After, the man claims that “they’re forcing people to use a Sharpie", and those votes aren’t being counted. He concludes by saying that “people are coming here to vote for Donald Trump, and those votes are all getting invalidated”. The video has received 28,000 reactions and 252 comments on Facebook.

However, Arizona government officials and the Maricopa county elections department have confirmed that Sharpies do not invalidate ballots and that bleeding ink will not prevent a ballot from being counted.

In a tweet on October 26 (before Election Day), the Maricopa county elections department wrote that voters can use “black or blue ballpoint pen and even Sharpie to mark [their] ballot” and that “ink bleeding will not impact counting” due to upgraded ballots and new vote tabulators. An accompanying video also explains that “fine-tipped Sharpies are used because it’s the fastest drying ink and works best on the tabulation equipment”.

On November 4, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs tweeted that “if you voted a regular ballot in-person, your ballot will be counted, no matter what kind of pen you used (even a Sharpie)!” On November 5, the Michigan department of state also posted a fact check on Twitter confirming that Sharpies will not invalidate ballots and bleeding will not alter or cancel the vote.

An election worker in Georgia did not throw away a ballot

Another Twitter video posted by Trump supporter and YouTuber Essential Fleccas on November 5 shows a video recording of an election worker sorting ballots alone at a desk. The worker appears agitated, and is then seen crumpling up a piece of paper and throwing it aside. The man narrating the recording claims that the worker was “flipping off a ballot and crumpling it up”. The video has been viewed five million times on Twitter, and has also been reposted on Instagram

After determining that the video showed an election worker in Fulton County, Georgia processing absentee ballots, election officials in the county reviewed the video and found its allegations to be false.

Richard Barron, elections director for Fulton County, confirmed during a press conference on November 6 that the worker was simply throwing out a list of instructions in a ballot envelope, The New York Times reported. Barron noted that ballots are much longer (8.5 by 19 inches to be precise) than the piece of paper discarded by the worker. An investigation of the incident conducted by the state election board also showed that no ballots had been discarded. In a statement released by Fulton county, the worker said that he was agitated because his fingers were slightly injured due to a machine malfunction.

According to Barron, the worker has gone into hiding, as his personal information was leaked online and threats were made on his life.


An election worker in Pennsylvania was not illegally filling out ballots

A Twitter video posted by conservative science fiction author Jon Del Arroz on November 6 shows a recording from Delaware county, Pennsylvania of an election worker filling out multiple ballots while seated in close proximity to his colleagues. In the comments, many users alleged that the worker was fraudulently casting or changing votes. The video was viewed 1.1 million times on the platform.

A press release published on November 6 by Delaware county confirmed that the worker was not fraudulently filling out ballots, but transcribing ballots damaged by the machine extractor onto clean ballots. The county also affirmed that as the ballots were being transcribed, ”the original damaged ballots were placed directly beside the new ballots and bipartisan observers witnessed the process at close range”. The observers are not shown as “the circulated video [taken from Delaware County’s official live-stream] is zoomed in to crop out the surrounding area, including the bipartisan observers who were not more than six feet away”.

A zoomed-out screenshot published by Delaware county shows bipartisan observers closely observing the worker and his colleagues.