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False posts spread about ballots without signatures in Miami-Dade County

October 29, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, 23% of mail-in ballots have been rejected for missing signatures.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The correct number is about 0.5%. About 2,265 of the 433,235 mail-in ballots that had been submitted to the Miami-Dade County Elections Department by Thursday morning were flagged for rejection because of missing signatures, according to Robert Rodriguez, assistant deputy supervisor of elections for the department.

THE FACTS: In Florida’s most populous county, social media users are spreading false information about how many mail-in ballots have been rejected because voters didn’t sign them.

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“Miami Dade reporting 23% of early ballots being REJECTED for missing signatures,” wrote one Twitter user in a post that was retweeted more than 4,600 times on Thursday and later removed by the platform.

Actor and activist George Takei shared a similar claim on Thursday, tweeting that 23% of ballots that have been rejected in Miami-Dade County were rejected because of missing signatures.

Those claims are false. Only about 0.5% of mailed ballots in Miami-Dade County are currently slated for rejection because of missing signatures, Rodriguez told The Associated Press.

The Miami-Dade County Elections Department had received a total of 433,235 mail-in ballots by Thursday morning, Rodriguez said. Of those, 2,265 had missing signatures. Another 212 had mismatched signatures.

There is still time for voters in Miami-Dade County or elsewhere in Florida to correct missing or mismatched signatures on their mailed ballots. Voters can complete a cure affidavit and return it to their county elections department by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5, according to state officials.

It is unclear what fueled the false claims around the number of ballots without signatures, but they surfaced after an opinion article published in the Tampa Bay Times on Oct. 16 pointed out a different discrepancy related to Miami-Dade County ballots.

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“Although Miami-Dade County accounts for only 7.2 percent of mail ballots cast by Florida voters, it accounts for nearly 23 percent of the state’s mail ballots received without signatures,” the article said.

Those numbers were current as of Oct. 16, according to Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida and one of the article’s authors. As of Thursday, he said, Miami-Dade County accounts for 10.3 percent of the state’s total ballots and about 1 in 4 of the state’s ballots with missing signatures.

Smith said Miami-Dade County may be overrepresented among counties for ballots without signatures because it is home to many naturalized citizens from around the world who may have difficulty reading voting instructions in the languages provided.

However, social media users spreading the recent false claims are “completely misrepresenting” those numbers, Smith added.

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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