Still, nearly a week later, several of these videos — including this manipulated clip of President-elect Biden and claims about votes cast in Sharpie — are still circulating on social media in an effort to seed doubts about the outcome of the 2020 election. Here is a tour of four big offenders.
The ‘election official’ ripping up Trump ballots
A video appearing to show an election official destroying a vote for Trump racked up tens of thousands of views on Twitter and YouTube. It was viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Instagram and posted by several prominent conservatives nearly a week after polls closed.
The video, which was originally published by the TikTok account @bigchoppadoe, shows a person appearing to be a poll worker sorting ballots. When he comes to one ballot for “Donald J. Dumb Trump,” the person rips it in half.
Reuters reported @bigchoppadoe is a Facebook user named Dale Harrison. After the video gained traction across social media, Harrison wrote on Facebook in a Nov. 9 post that the video was a joke. Earlier photos and videos from his social media page show Harrison wearing a similar vest while working at a product distribution center in or around Denver. Neither Harrison nor his family members responded to multiple requests for comment.
The Fact Checker asked the Colorado secretary of state whether Harrison was a poll worker and if it is possible that the video was not a “joke,” as he claimed. The secretary of state’s office directed us to the elections department at the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, which oversees ballots in and around Colorado Springs, where it appears Harrison lives. That office provided a laundry list of reasons that this video was not what it appeared.
No senior staffers who are tasked with hiring election workers recognized him, and the office had no paperwork for the required background check. Moreover, anyone who was associated with vote counting was issued a specialized lanyard, according to the office. In the video, Harrison is not wearing one. The office also said judges who work in vote processing do not wear yellow vests and the location where the video was filmed does not match the El Paso County Clerk and Record’s office or any of their facilities. The signage does, however, resemble a space where Harrison has filmed other videos posted to his social media accounts.
Ballot stuffing in Philadelphia
A video purporting to show ballot stuffing in Philadelphia has gained more than 300,000 views since Election Day.
Trump campaign director of Election Day operations Mike Roman wrote in a tweet accompanying the video: “Literally STUFFING the ballot box in Philly! You are only allowed to deliver YOUR OWN ballot to a drop box!! Trying to STEAL THE ELECTION in broad daylight.” (Twitter has since flagged the video with a warning “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”) Neither Roman nor the Trump campaign responded to the Fact Checker’s request for comment.
The video shows a woman approach the box in broad daylight. She pulls out a stack of papers, shuffles them and then puts at least one ballot in the box. The camera is then obscured by passing cars. Still, by the end of the clip, it appears that she has placed at least two additional ballots in the box, while rifling through a mess of papers.
The Fact Checker spoke with one neighbor who recalled the woman depositing ballots. There was nothing unusual, he said. Still is there something fishy about this scene? Is it legal to deposit more than one ballot at a time?
“It is lawful for people to act as agents on behalf of voters who cannot engage in the process of voting for themselves — due to illness, infirmity, etc. It is also lawful to drop mail in a mailbox on behalf of other people,” Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Roh said in an email.
Roh confirmed that her office had reviewed this video on Election Day. “Nothing in that video is conclusive of wrongdoing,” she wrote, adding, “Social media accusations of election interference from the Trump campaign and the Philly GOP circulated since Tuesday, including posts about this video, were never reported to authorities — which arguably raises questions about the actual intent of these posts.”
The Associated Press previously reported that the Trump campaign filmed people in the Philadelphia area depositing ballots. The campaign said it was an attempt to catch violations, while the state’s attorney general suggested it might be illegal intimidation.
Put simply, there is no evidence that any wrongdoing took place here.
A viral video that local officials, fact-checkers and even our colleagues have debunked is still available for viewing on some social media channels. The video falsely shows a person burning ballots cast for Trump.
The video starts with two gloved hands holding three ballots up to the camera to reveal that they had been cast for the president. “Yeah, all Trump. You got to do what you got to do,” says the person off-camera before tossing the ballots into a plastic bag and lighting it on fire.
Election officials in the city of Virginia Beach dismissed the video in a statement on Election Day. “A concerned citizen” sent the video to the election office. In a freeze frame analysis, officials noted that the papers in the video do not have the bar codes present on official ballots. The ballots in the video are samples.
The video picked up more views after Eric Trump retweeted the video from a now suspended account a day after Virginia Beach officials debunked the clip. About an hour after President Trump’s son shared the video, the Virginia Beach Twitter account replied to his thread: “Those were sample ballots. Addressed this yesterday.”
Wagon rolling into Detroit vote counting center
It all started with a red wagon and a white unmarked van. Shortly after filming the scene, Kellye SoRelle shared the video with the website Texas ScoreCard, which describes itself as “Someone’s always keeping score. We think it ought to be the citizens.”
That same day, Eric Trump retweeted the video now published in a story for the Gateway Pundit. His tweet gathered over 40,000 retweets and 300,000 views. Trump wrote: “WATCH: Suitcases and Coolers Rolled Into Detroit Voting Center at 4 AM, Brought Into Secure Counting Area.”
A couple hours later, WXYZ investigative reporter Ross Jones responded to the article in a tweet: “The ‘ballot thief’ was my photographer. He was bringing down equipment for our 12-hour shift.”
WXYZ photojournalist Josh Bowren explained in a segment for the news channel that he was the one in the video and the red wagon he was using did not contain ballot boxes but a box full of batteries. The Gateway Pundit story has since been updated to include WXYZ’s report. The Texas Scorecard story — which did include a statement from WXYZ — is still listed as trending on the front page.
The Pinocchio Test
Time after time, the 2020 election cycle proved that you can’t always believe what you see.
Each of these videos captured the attention of people eager to believe that election fraud led to Biden’s victory. Politicians even pointed to them as evidence. Social media posts misrepresented benign events and jokes(!) as nefarious, pushing forth false and dangerous narratives. Hundreds of thousands of people viewed these videos. But these are all examples of misrepresentation, according to our guide to manipulated video, and people should not have been so quick to share them.
In these tense times, it’s important to avoid jumping to conclusions about videos shared on social media. Anyone who shares these videos without casting doubt on their authenticity earns Four Pinocchios — unless you choose to delete them.
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