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5 misinformation debunks from Election Week

Supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as part of a "Stop the Steal" protest. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan talks to them about why they believe the election was stolen.

Posted: Nov 9, 2020 3:01 PM
Updated: Nov 9, 2020 3:01 PM

A very long election week made way for numerous fake claims to circulate on social media.

From baseless assertions that thousands of deceased people in Michigan voted to a fake video of "ballots" burning that was shared by Eric Trump, misinformation went viral online.

Here's the truth about some of the biggest misinformation stories from Election Week.

Claims that dead people were voting went viral

Prominent Republicans alleged that Democrats were using dead people to steal Michigan's Electoral College votes from Trump.

A CNN analysis of the claim and the purported backing for it did not find a single instance of that happening.

CNN examined 50 of the more than 14,000 names on the list by taking the first 25 names on the list and then 25 more picked at random. We ran the names through Michigan's Voter Information database to see if they requested or returned a ballot. We then checked the names against publicly available records to see if they were indeed dead. Of the 50, 37 were indeed dead and had not voted, according to the voter information database. Five people out of the 50 had voted -- and they are all still alive, according to public records accessed by CNN. The remaining eight are also alive but didn't vote.

The sample CNN reviewed is not representative, but the trend was clear -- not a single one of the names examined was of a dead person voting.

Right-wing media portrayed window covering at ballot center as nefarious

Right-wing media outlets portrayed a move at a Detroit ballot-counting center as nefarious. These outlets reported on a decision by poll workers at the TCF Center in Detroit to partially cover windows with cardboard as they counted ballots inside and a group of apparent Trump supporters gathered outside.

However, a city official told CNN Business that the measure at the center of controversy was taken to ensure private voter data wasn't inappropriately exposed to the public. Those concerns were compounded by the fact that protesters standing outside the ballot-counting area were taking photographs and recording video.

A viral 'ballot' burning video shared by Eric Trump was fake

A viral video that purports to show about 80 "ballots," all for Donald Trump, being burned is fake, Virginia Beach city officials say.

The video, which surfaced on Election Day, features a man with a plastic bag full of papers that look like ballots, which he doused with a flammable liquid and set aflame. The person, whose face is never shown, claims the 80 false "ballots" are "all for President Trump" on the video.

But the ballots are not real. The city of Virginia Beach said the papers are clearly sample ballots, rather than official ballots, since they lack the "bar code markings that are on all official ballots," according to a statement released last week. The statement showed an official ballot and compared it to a screenshot of the false video.

Eric Trump, the President's son, retweeted the video last week. However, the account Eric Trump retweeted has now been suspended, so the video can no longer be seen on his feed.

False rumors about Sharpies went viral

False claims that using Sharpie pens could invalidate ballots in Arizona prompted a top Department of Homeland Security official last week to urge people to stop spreading disinformation online.

Rumors began to spread on social media last Wednesday that voters in the battleground state of Arizona who used Sharpie pens on their ballots wouldn't have their votes counted, which was quickly dubbed "#SharpieGate."

That confusion prompted state officials, election monitors and a top Trump administration official to push on the rumors.

The situation prompted a lawsuit, joined by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, filed against Maricopa County election officials.

A Michigan election map with false information went viral and landed in Trump's Twitter feed

President Trump tweeted an image of an electoral map of Michigan that purported to show an unexplained jump overnight in the number of returned ballots in the state. The claim: According to the data in the map, 138,000 ballots had come in out of nowhere, and all of them were for Biden.

The image was real. But the idea that it indicated fraud was absolutely false, though the people sharing it likely initially did not know that the data in the map was wrong.

The image was a screenshot of a map on the website Decision Desk HQ, which tracks election results and has powered results data for media outlets like BuzzFeed News. After Trump's tweet on Wednesday, Decision Desk HQ said there had been an error in the data it had been sent from Michigan's Shiawassee County. "Once we identified the error, we cleared the erroneous data and updated it with the correct data as provided by officials," Decision Desk HQ said in a statement to CNN.

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