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Ballots not being thrown out by students at Ohio State University

October 2, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Ohio State University students are throwing away Trump voters’ absentee ballots.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Ohio has not yet begun mailing out absentee ballots so it is not possible for students to be throwing them away. A student’s comment in an emailed newsletter appears to be a joke, similar to a claim that has circulated before.

THE FACTS: A screenshot of an Ohio State University student’s comment in an email newsletter is making the rounds on social media. The comment reads “i love working at a residence hall and throwing away absentee ballots that vote for trump” - Brian W.

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The quote was published by the Student Section, an online site that sends email newsletters to specific college campuses, including The Ohio State University. The comment is listed under a heading that says “The Salty Section,” which features students venting about various topics, including cockroaches and COVID-19.

Charlie Kirk, chair of Students for Trump and president of Turning Point USA, a conservative student organization, tweeted a screenshot that included the quote about throwing out ballots. “At Ohio State University students are saying in their online student newspaper the “Student Section” that they enjoy throwing away Trump voters’ absentee ballots. FBI and police must investigate immediately,” reads Kirk’s post, which was retweeted thousands of times.

After Kirk publicized the student comment, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose posted to Twitter, “Fortunately, it’s not true, but voter fraud isn’t something to joke about.”

In a video statement, LaRose warned that destroying ballots is a felony and added, “The boards of elections haven’t even started sending out ballots in Ohio. That doesn’t happen until October 6. So this alleged activity that is going on can’t have happened yet. But if you think that that’s funny, it’s not.”

The Franklin County Board of Elections posted to Twitter, “We will be investigating the report and treating it seriously, but it’s important to note that no requested absentee ballots have yet been mailed out in Ohio.”

The Student Section did not respond to emails from the AP or a query sent through its website, but it appears the comment was made in jest. The quote echoes a prank from October 2016, in which a Twitter user posted, “i love working at the post office in Columbus, Ohio and ripping up absentee ballots that vote for trump.”

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Kirk’s tweet referred to the quote appearing in students’ “online student newspaper, the ‘Student Section.’” According to Sam Raudins, editor in chief of The Ohio State University’s student newspaper, The Lantern, the publication has nothing to do with the newsletter. “The Student Section is not the student newspaper, The Lantern is,” Raudins wrote in an email.

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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