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No evidence that people are stealing maiden names to vote

November 10, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Voter fraud has been found after women’s maiden names are being used to cast ballots in other states. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. There is no evidence that this is taking place. 

THE FACTS: The latest iteration of false voter fraud claims began circulating early Tuesday. Widely shared posts online told social media users to check their voter registration status as their maiden names or other previous names were being used as part of a plot to vote in other states. Social media users circulated the false narrative with the hashtag #maidengate. Posts targeted voters in swing states including Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

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“Voter fraud strategy discovered. Married women’s maiden name was used to register and stack up extra votes. #MaidenGate,” one tweet said. 

Experts say there is no evidence that this took place during the general election. Jason Roberts, political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that in order to pull off this feat a voter would have to go into another state and know the address and former name of a person. They would also have to know that the person’s voter registration in the state was not already deactivated. Numerous safeguards are in place to detect voting fraud like this. 

You then have to state their name, state their address and sign an affidavit saying this was you,” Roberts said. “All of this is under penalty of felony, and then vote.”

Even then, when a person first registers to vote, a form of ID is typically required. Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for Common Cause, a nonpartisan election watchdog group, told the AP that under the Help America Vote Act, the first time anyone votes it has to be verified with identification. 

There’s no evidence of this taking place,” Albert said. “Yes it’s possible for someone’s maiden name to be on the voter rolls during the time in which the name is being changed and the records are being updated.” 

But voting using someone else’s identity is a crime and could not be accomplished by thousands of people in different states. 

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How are you going to coordinate 10,000 people to do this?” said Roberts. 

Shane Creevy, head of editorial at Kinzen, an Ireland-based company that works to monitor misinformation online, told the AP that posts circulating with #maidengate online also shared similar hashtags used to promote voter fraud, like #stopthesteal. 

Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona tweeted about the conspiracy, telling voters to check their status. 

“This young lady has found a potential fraud play with ballots getting mass mailed to former addresses and former names (changed for marriage/divorce etc),” he tweeted Tuesday. “You can check to see if your former self cast a vote in your former location. #maidengate.”

Jesse Littlewood, vice president for campaigns at Common Cause, told the AP that narratives like the #maidengate conspiracy further sow distrust around voting in the U.S. 

“It is corrosive to our sense of our democracy that is about participating, and democracy works better when everyone is involved,” he said. 

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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