What misinformation is there on social media about US voter fraud?

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By Hebe Campbell
VOTING   -   Copyright  Matt York/AP

As voting counting resumes in a drawn-out US election stalemate, misinformation and conspiracy theories have found fertile ground online.

In Arizona, social media users claimed that election officials had provided voters with "Sharpie pens" in a theory being shared under the hashtag #Sharpiegate.

Social media posts falsely suggested that election officials around the US provided voters with "Sharpie pens" that stopped vote tabulation machines from reading them, specifically those for President Donald Trump.

There is no evidence for this.

Arizona election officials confirmed that "Sharpies" were used in voting, but they said that would not invalidate a ballot.

The Maricopa County Elections Department tweeted on election day that voting centres use Sharpies so that ink does not smudge when ballots are counted.

“New offset columns on the ballots mean bleed through won’t impact your vote!” they tweeted in an informational video.

Still, one video with more than 821,000 views showed a woman speaking about how four different polling places were using Sharpies and a man asks her if “those ballots are not being counted” and “are invalid.”

“They are invalidating votes is what they are doing,” the man says. He went on to falsely suggest voters use a ballpoint pen instead.

But Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has stated that ballots will be counted "no matter what kind of pen you used - even a Sharpie".

Meanwhile, in Allegheny County in Pennsylvania - another key swing state - officials told Euronews that claims about allegations about the use of Sharpie pens or makers were just "rumours".

"If the scanner is unable to read the ballot, the scan is tried several more times," said a spokesperson.

"If still not successful, the ballot would be recreated and verified during the Return Board process and would then be scanned and counted."


Another misinformation trend surfacing throughout election day was hashtag #stopthesteal, as part of an unfounded claim that Democrats were fraudulently trying to steal the election.

In Pennsylvania, an out of context video surfaced of election officials turning a poll watcher away from the voting station went viral, collecting more than three million views.

Trump's election operations director, Mike Roman, retweeted it claiming that Democrat officials were "banning" Trump poll watchers, saying "the steal is on".

Philadelphia's city commissioners' office has said it was an honest mistake by the polling official, who was following previous regulations.

The poll watcher was allowed in after the situation was cleared up, the office added. 

This hashtag has manifested through social media platforms, with a #stopthesteal Facebook page collecting more than 260,000 members.

"Democrats are scheming to disenfranchise and nullify Republican votes. It's up to us, the American People, to fight and to put a stop to it' the page reads in the information section.

"Our teams are monitoring the hashtag #StopTheSteal and related tweets, and if they find violations of the Twitter Rules, they will take enforcement action accordingly," a Twitter spokesperson told Euronews.

On Wednesday, Twitter had labeled as potentially "misleading" a tweet by US President Donald Trump which accused Democrats of trying to "steal the election".

Journalist • Matthew Holroyd