Voter fraud: Social media is playing whack-a-mole with a bunch of bogus claims

President-elect Joe Biden won the presidential election, but that hasn't stopped people claiming foul.

Oscar Gonzalez Staff reporter
Oscar Gonzalez is Texas native who covers video games, conspiracy theories, misinformation and cryptocurrency.
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Oscar Gonzalez
5 min read
Voter Fraud

The 2020 election wasn't stolen.

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With Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania certifying their election results this week, President-elect Joe Biden is a step closer to being officially declared the next president of the United States after the election was called on Nov. 7. That fact hasn't stopped people on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from claiming President Donald Trump was the election's true winner. 

Social media is littered with bogus claims -- many of them amplified by President Trump -- that voter fraud ran rampant, that a supercomputer changed votes and that thousands of zombies voted. None of this is remotely true. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, created by the Trump administration to protect US computer and communications networks against hackers, including threats to 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 CISA, after he debunked 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.

Michigan votes were changed 

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 doesn'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.

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

On Monday, Michigan certified the state's election results and declared Biden to be the winner of its 16 electoral votes.

Votes were deleted by Dominion voting machines

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 that quoted 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. 

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.

USPS worker said there were orders to backdate ballots

The claim: A US Postal Service employee 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, Pennyslvania, 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.

Election results don't follow Benford's law

The claim: Biden's vote totals don't conform to 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. 

Days after the election, rumors that Biden's results didn't conform to Benford's law began spreading online. They were quickly debunked by 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 for Biden

The claim: People who've been dead for years who voted 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 a 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