Non-partisan political website RealClearPolitics (RCP) rescinded its call earlier this week of Joe Biden winning the state of Pennsylvania. Bringing him back down below the 270 threshold to 259 Electoral Votes. The recall came at a moment that votes are still being counted and many lawsuits were filed by the lawyers of president Donald Trump. Various alternative media followed suit creating outrage and fierce debates on social media.
By Arthur Blok
RCP is an independent non-partisan American political news site and polling data aggregator formed in 2000 by former options trader John McIntyre and former advertising agency account executive Tom Bevan. The site features selected political news stories and op-eds from various news publications in addition to commentary from its own contributors.
Claims of electoral fraud by the Trump team are going viral on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, even as the platforms continue to implement special measures aimed at reducing the spread of alleged misinformation around the US presidential election.
Major social media platforms are nominally cracking down on misinformation, prominently displaying election results or appending warning labels to posts by Donald Trump that seek to undermine the validity of the vote. According to social analytics platforms such as NewsWhip and CrowdTangle, however, claims about voting irregularities have become among the most-shared content on Facebook.
The top three posts are all from Trump: one alleges “Fake Votes” in Nevada, where Trump trails Joe Biden by 36,000 votes; another claims Georgia, where Trump trails by 13,000 votes pending a hand recount, will be a “big presidential win”; and a third says “a very large number of ballots” will be affected by “threshold identification”.
The top news stories on Facebook are also dominated by rightwing claims of “irregularities” and “fraud”, CrowdTangle data showed. Three of the top 10 posts are links from Trump to the right-wing news site Breitbart, covering attorney general Bill Barr’s inquiry into “voting irregularities” and inquiries in Michigan and Georgia; a fourth is to right-wing site Newsmax, calling Pennsylvania’s situation a “constitutional travesty”.
Ballots returned before sent date
Various alternative media report this week that ‘tens of thousands of Pennsylvania ballots returned earlier than the sent date’. Allegedly more than 20,000 absentee ballots in Pennsylvania have impossible return dates and another more than 80,000 have return dates that raise questions, according to a researcher’s analysis of the state’s voter database.
Over 51,000 ballots were marked as returned just a day after they were sent out—an extraordinary speed, given U.S. Postal Service (USPS) delivery times, while nearly 35,000 were returned on the same day they were mailed out. Another more than 23,000 have a return date earlier than the sent date. More than 9,000 have no sent date.
The state’s voter records are being scrutinized as President Trump is challenging the results of the presidential election in Pennsylvania and other states where his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, holds a tight lead. The Trump campaign is alleging that invalid ballots have been counted for Democrats and valid ballots for Republicans were thrown away.
The analysis of the publicly available data was conducted by a concerned data researcher. The researcher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he consulted about the matter with several USPS field engineers, who said the return dates shown in the database are “impossible.”
A screenshot of publicly available mail ballot data in Pennsylvania showing the date when ballots were sent out (3rd column from right) and received (2nd column from right) only one day apart. (Data source: Pennsylvania Secretary of State)
The dataset made public by Pennsylvania’s secretary of state was last updated on Nov. 10, and “describes a current state of mail ballot requests for the 2020 General Election.” The data includes the mailed-out and return dates.
In Pennsylvania, voters must request a ballot, which is sent to them via USPS. The voter then fills out the document and sends it back via mail or returns it in person. The process usually takes several days or even weeks, depending on the speed of delivery and response by the voter.
This year, Pennsylvania also allowed voters to “request, receive, mark and cast your mail-in or absentee ballot all in one visit to your county election office or other designated location.” That may explain the ballots with no sent date—they may have been received and cast in person.
While it could also explain the ballots with the same sent and returned date, that appears to clash with the description of the database, which says the sent date is “the date the county confirmed the application to queue a ballot label to mail the ballot materials to the voter.”
A screenshot of publicly available mail ballot data in Pennsylvania showing the date when ballots were sent out (3rd column from right) and received (2nd column from right) on the same day. (Data source: Pennsylvania Secretary of State)
If the ballot was received by the voter in person, there would have been no need for a mailing label. “Since October 1, the average time of delivery for First-Class Mail, including ballots, was 2.5 days,” USPS said in an Oct. 29 release.
Impossible and improbable return dates indicate there’s something wrong with either the database or the ballots. The Office of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State did not yet respond to requests for comment.
In addition to the ballots described above, there were more than 43,000 ballots returned two days after being sent out, which is still remarkably fast, although still possible if the voter quickly delivered the ballot to an election office or a ballot drop box in person. The flagged ballots comprise almost 4 percent of all those issued by the state.
A screenshot of publicly available mail ballot data in Pennsylvania showing the date when ballots were sent out (3rd column from right) and received (2nd column from right) a day before the sent date. (Data source: Pennsylvania Secretary of State)
In the mean time spectators all over the world are observing the unprecedented election circus in the “greatest” democracy on earth. Without a crystal ball it is impossible to predict when the final election results will be known. It is evident that by December 8 all state recounts and court contests over presidential election results must be completed. Until that moment the election circus continues.