We have watched with amusement as right-wing media personalities from Rush Limbaugh to Matt Drudge to Scott Baio have fallen for a Twitter user’s joke that he is an Ohio postal worker who is proudly “ripping up absentee ballots that vote for trump.” The right-wing panic over the joke tweet went so far that Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State spoke out on the matter yesterday.
i love working at the post office in Columbus, Ohio and ripping up absentee ballots that vote for trump
— raandy (@randygdub) October 16, 2016
Conservatives were quick to run with a story that seemed to corroborate Donald Trump’s claim that the election has been rigged against him and that widespread fraud is taking place at polling sites. Not surprisingly, the fact that the story was clearly bogus and easily debunked did not stop them.
Voter fraud is fantastically rare and it would take a massive and complicated undertaking to swing the upcoming presidential election, seeing that it would have to involve tampering with different voting systems in several different states and overcoming margins of victory that typically come out to hundreds of thousands of votes per state.
Nevertheless, the GOP has spent years, with much success, promoting the myth of Democrats winning elections due to voter fraud in order to defend laws that disqualify thousands of people, typically people of color and young people, from voting without a particular voter ID.
With Republicans desperate to find incidents to confirm their conspiracy theory, it is no wonder that leading conservative voices in the media fell so quickly for a Twitter joke.
But this is far from the first false claim that Republicans have cited to justify their voter disenfranchisement laws. Here are just five other myths that the conservative media have elevated to the level of gospel in their desperate attempt to prove that widespread voter fraud is real:
1) Philadelphia Returns
For years, Republicans have pointed to findings that several divisions in Philadelphia showed Mitt Romney receiving zero votes in the last election. Trump even exaggerated this claim today to allege that both Romney and his GOP predecessor John McCain “got zero votes” in the entire city.
Romney did in fact fail to receive a single vote in a handful of predominantly African American divisions that were “extremely Democratic.” A Philadelphia election inspector said that it would have been impossible for several divisions to erase Romney votes and that “stealing those 100 votes [from Romney] would be extremely risky and stupid” considering that they would a drop in the bucket “in a city where 700,000 votes were cast.”
Oddly, conservatives outraged about this case of supposed fraud never seemed to call for an investigation of the precincts in Utah where President Obama didn’t win any votes.
2) Rigged Florida Election
In 2012, Florida Republican Rep. Allen West lost his race for re-election in a tight contest, but conservatives were quick to cry voter fraud when one county reported that the number of “cards cast” in the election equaled 141 percent of the number of registered voters in West’s district.
While the language is confusing, “cards cast” does not mean “ballots cast.” Each ballot contained two cards, or pages, meaning that voter turnout was actually about 70 percent.
3) Stuffed Ohio Ballots
One viral story this year from an outlet called the Christian Times Newspaper reported that a poll worker in Columbus, Ohio, had “stumbled across approximately one dozen black, sealed ballot boxes filled with thousands of Franklin County votes for Hillary Clinton and other Democrat candidates,” warning that it was “evidence of a massive operation designed to deliver Clinton the crucial swing state.”
As Snopes pointed out, the photograph of the Ohio poll worker with the ballot boxes used in the story was actually a photo “taken in 2015 in Birmingham, England, and simply captures a man unloading a truck of ballot boxes at a polling station.”
4) Illegal Somali Votes
Hans von Spakovsky, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and vocal supporter of laws ostensibly meant to crackdown on voter fraud, has searched far and wide to find cases of fraud that have occurred in the last decade. Back in 2011, he thought he had finally found one: “A 2010 election in Missouri that ended in a one-vote margin of victory included 50 votes cast illegally by citizens of Somalia.”
Von Spakovsky was referring to a Missouri State House race that was decided by a single vote and where the Republican candidate claimed he lost due to fraud.
However, a court review found “that there was no misconduct by any voter” in the election and concluded “that the evidence fails to show that there was any fraud practiced as to even one vote.” Non-English-speaking Somalis did vote in the election, but contrary to von Spakovsky’s claim, they were citizens who were registered voters and there was no proof that they committed fraud.
5) Undocumented Immigrants Voting
Back in 2010, Jesse Kelly, an Arizona Republican running for the U.S. House, said that “people have video” proving that Democrats “literally bus people across from Mexico to have them vote at the polls on Election Day, give them a meal and then bus them back. It’s been done in the past.”
The state’s Republican secretary of state, however, said there was no evidence to support his allegation, and the Arizona Republic found that “voter-fraud cases in Maricopa County,” the state’s largest, “involving illegal immigrants are nearly non-existent.”
We are still waiting for Kelly to produce the video proof of voter fraud.