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No evidence Queens residents received pre-marked ballots

October 30, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Residents in the Queens Village section of New York City are receiving ballots that have been marked for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with instructions to just send them back to the Board of Elections.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Officials with the New York City Board of Elections said there is no evidence that residents in Queens are receiving ballots pre-marked for Democratic candidates. 

THE FACTS: Tweets began circulating widely on Thursday stating that residents in Queens Village, in the borough of Queens, were receiving ballots that had been already filled out for Democratic candidates, including presidential nominee Joe Biden. The information appeared to originate on the Twitter account of Jake Novak, who identified himself as a freelance columnist living in New York City who has previously written for CNBC.com. 

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Novak shared the ballot in a video he posted to Twitter. He said the ballot was given to him by the person who received it.

In the video, Novak notes that the ballot had been marked for every Democratic candidate listed, including Biden. He goes on to say it appears that the ballot was marked using a stamper or a machine. 

“No human being could be that perfect with filling in all the blanks,” he says in the video.

But it turns out a human could be that perfect.

In the video, Novak shares the voter ID number on the envelope.

After reviewing the ballot shown in the video, election officials contacted the voter in California who had requested the absentee ballot. The voter confirmed they had received and completed the ballot and then returned it. But the voter used the wrong envelope and rather than the ballot going to the board of elections, it was sent back to the voter’s previously listed address in Queens. 

In his tweet, Novak claimed it was “shocking” that the ballot was marked as a military absentee ballot and that the Queens Village resident never requested the ballot. 

“Here is one of the most shocking details in this NYC #VoterFraud story: the ballot sent was a MILITARY absentee ballot even though no ballot was ever requested & neither the addressee nor anyone in the home EVER served in the military!,” he says. 

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All absentee ballots in New York are labeled military ballots, according to the city board of elections. 

Ordinarily, absentee ballots in the city are sent out with a heading identifying them as an “Official Absentee / Military Ballot.”  This year, the slash between “absentee” and “military” was left out, leading some voters to believe they had mistakenly been mailed a ballot for use only by members of the military, officials said. 

The president’s son, Eric Trump, shared the false post on Friday tweeting, “What is going on in New York.”

Screenshots of Novak’s tweets were also widely shared on Facebook where users repeated his claim.

Novak later clarified on Twitter that the name on the envelope belonged to someone who had not lived at the residence for eight months.

The New York City Board of Elections responded to Novak’s tweets on Twitter, saying the ballot did not appear to have been filled in by a machine. In addition, election officials said they had received no reports of Queens Village residents receiving pre-marked ballots.

“Actually it looks like it was filled out by hand and we have previously stated we have not received any reports of this happening!” the account tweeted Friday.

Novak declined to comment, telling the AP in an email that he was continuing to work on a story about the issue.

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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