False claims circulate about mail-in-ballots in Virginia and Nevada
CLAIM: Over 500,000 vote-by-mail ballots in Virginia and 200,000 in Nevada were found under the names of dead people and pets.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Election officials have not yet mailed absentee ballots in either state. There is no evidence that ballots have ever been sent to deceased voters in those states at that scale, or that pets have received ballots.
THE FACTS: A widely circulated post on Facebook asks, “Why isn’t anyone mentioning over 500,000 mail in ballots found in Virginia and 200,000 in Nevada with dead peoples names and pets?”
Election officials in Virginia and Nevada have not yet mailed out absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election.
Andrea Gaines of the Virginia Department of Elections told The Associated Press, “Absentee ballots are only sent to registered voters upon request. At this time no ballots have been sent to any voters in Virginia.”
In Nevada, in contrast to Virginia, all active registered voters will receive absentee ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Election officials expect to send them in early October. Nevada voters will also have the option to vote in-person early or on Election Day.
There is no evidence that mailed ballots have been sent to deceased voters or pets on a large scale in the past in either state.
Often rumors have a small kernel of truth, and it appears the false claim circulating on social media has distorted true voting stories in each state that happened earlier this summer.
In Virginia, the false claim stating 500,000 ballots were sent to deceased voters and pets may be linked to news coverage about problems with 500,000 absentee ballot applications. The Center for Voter Information, a non-partisan organization, mailed more than 2 million Virginia voters official ballot applications in August in an effort to boost voter participation. But due to an error by the printing company, 500,000 voters received ballot applications with an incorrect address printed on the return envelope.
In a story about the flawed ballot application envelopes on radio station WTOP, Deb Wake, who was identified as the president of the League of Women Voters Virginia, said, “One person stated that a dead person received one and a pet received one.”
Some websites then published headlines that “dead people and pets” were among those who received ballot applications from the nonprofit.
But the Center for Voter Information, which sent out the ballot applications, disputes the allegation.
“We are not aware of any of our ballot applications going to pets or deceased people, as some have alleged,” Tom Lopach, the CEO and president of the nonprofit, told the AP. “Our mailing list is made up of registered voters on record with the state.” Lopach said his organization had received the list of registered voters from state election officials.
In Nevada, it appears the false claim about 200,000 ballots being sent to deceased voters and pets may be twisting facts from the state’s June 9 primary election.
Ahead of the primary, election officials in Clark County mailed ballots to all registered voters, including both active and inactive voters. Anecdotal reports suggest some of the absentee ballots were sent to voters who had died.
Jenny Trobiani, a U.S. Postal Service carrier, told the Las Vegas Review Journal in May that she was unable to deliver some absentee ballots because voters had moved or died, and her deceased mother had received one. According to Fox News, Trobiani said she saw hundreds of ballots addressed to inactive voters.
But there is no evidence that 200,000 ballots were sent to deceased voters.
“The claim that 200,000 ballots went to dead people is not true,” Wayne Thorley, Nevada’s deputy secretary of state for elections, told the AP. He also dismissed the claim about pets. “So, obviously, only registered voters are eligible to receive a ballot in Nevada, and pets can’t be registered voters, so pets cannot get a ballot.”
Thorley said election officials receive updates daily from the state’s vital statistics division and remove voters who have died from the rolls. Election officials also update voter lists after receiving updates every other month from the Social Security Administration with death notices.
He said while it is possible for there to be lags of days or weeks before a deceased voter is removed from the rolls, “We’re pretty proactive about seeking out information and making sure that there a ren’t deceased individuals on our voter rolls.”
Thorley said the 200,000 figure in the false claim may be a mistaken reference to the number of absentee ballots for the June primary that were returned to Clark County election officials as undeliverable.
“During the recent primary election about 226,000 ballots were returned to the Election Department because those voters no longer reside at the address they provided when they registered to vote,” Dan Kulin of the Clark County Office of Public Information wrote to AP in an email.
Kulin added, “They have moved. This is a common way for us to discover someone has moved.”
Thorley told the AP that county election officials in Nevada will only be mailing absentee ballots to active registered voters for the Nov. 3 general election.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536