- Multiple agencies, public officials, and social media platforms have debunked several election-related conspiracy theories, including one that alleges poll workers in Arizona sabotaged votes for President Donald Trump by having his supporters vote with Sharpies.
- In fact, the Arizona elections department in question has repeatedly affirmed since October that Sharpies are a valid method for filling out ballots in the jurisdiction.
- Officials in Virginia have also debunked a video shared by Eric Trump, the president’s son, which appears to show 80 ballots cast for President Trump being burned.
- Those officials say the ballots that video are not official and are instead sample ballots, as they lack “bar code markings that are on all official ballots.”
- Despite widespread debunking efforts, these conspiracies have continued to circulate online, and social media platforms have taken varying steps to prevent their spread.
The False Claims Behind #SharpieGate
Since polls opened on Tuesday, numerous election-related conspiracy theories have circulated online. While many of them have since been debunked by multiple agencies, public officials, and social media platforms, that has not seemed to stop their spread.
One such debunked conspiracy theory is known as SharpieGate, which claims that poll workers intentionally sabotaged votes for incumbent President Donald Trump through the use of Sharpies.
In fact, this conspiracy has become so large that it partially inspired protests at a poll counting site in Maricopa County, Arizona, on Wednesday night. While Arizona has been called for Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden by outlets such as the Associated Press and Fox News, other outlets have refused to declare a victor, as of Thursday afternoon.
The conspiracy goes like this: Somehow, poll workers in Maricopa County were able to tell the difference between Trump supporters and Biden supporters simply by looking at them. Instead of using regular pens, those poll workers would then hand Sharpies to the people they suspected to be Trump voters. From there, they would be able to invalidate votes for Trump.
One woman in Maricopa County has even sued election officials after saying that her ballot was invalidated because she was given a Sharpie.
According to that lawsuit, this was the first time Laurie Aguilera had ever been given a Sharpie to vote, even though she has reportedly voted in-person over the last few election cycles. After completing her ballot, Aguilera claims she tried to feed it into the voting machine but that the machine rejected her ballot. Alongside that, she noted that ink from the Sharpie had bled through to the other side of the ballot. She then said a poll worker canceled her ballot when she requested a new one but that the poll worker also refused to give her a new ballot.
Now, she’s accusing the Maricopa County’s voting machines of being unable to read Sharpies and is requesting that everyone who was given a Sharpie be identified and allowed to fix their vote so that it’s counted.
SharpieGate is Overwhelmingly Debunked
According to experts and election officials, her claim is not true.
“Sharpies are just fine to use,” Megan Gilbertson, communications director for the Maricopa County Elections Department told Reuters. “They do not impact tabulation, and we encourage them on Election Day because of how fast the ink dries.”
Even before this conspiracy theory picked up steam on Tuesday, the Maricopa County Elections Department tweeted:
“Did you know we use Sharpies in the Vote Centers so the ink doesn’t smudge as ballots are counted onsite? New offset columns on the ballots means bleed through won’t impact your vote!”
Alongside that tweet, it included a video that was originally posted to YouTube on Oct. 24. That video affirms that Sharpies, as well as black or blue ink pens, are all valid methods for marking ballots in Arizona.
The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an agency formed by legislation that Trump himself signed, directly labeled SharpieGate as a false rumor,
“Poll workers are required to provide approved writing devices to voters,” it stated.
Additionally, as the Associated Press noted, “Even if a ballot could not be read by a tabulation machine, it would be reviewed by a board that re-examines the ballots.The vote would not be canceled.”
All of that has done little to end the spread of this conspiracy theory.
“Voted with a sharpie pen and now my vote is canceled. Woah,” one man said on Twitter Wednesday.
In his post, that man also included an image seemingly showing that his ballot had been canceled.
However, this is a severely cropped photo that doesn’t tell the full story. In fact, the image linked by this man actually appears to be a form showing that his mail-in ballot was canceled because he never returned it. As the man stated, he voted in-person.
As Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs pointed out, “Voters who received an early ballot in the mail but chose to instead vote in-person will see their early ballot status as “Canceled” on their Ballot-by-Mail/Early Ballot Status update. This is because the early ballot is canceled so the ballot cast-in person can be counted.”
According to Reuters, SharpieGate is so potent that even people who used Sharpies and had their ballots clearly accepted by voting machines are now worried about their vote.
Fake Ballot Burning Video Shared by Eric Trump
While there are similar Sharpie-related stories circulating in places like Chicago, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, this is by far the only election-related conspiracy theory meant to scare conservative voters.
In fact, on Tuesday, Eric Trump — the president’s son — shared a video that allegedly shows 80 Virginian ballots, all cast for President Trump, being burned. In that video, a person throws what appears to be ballots in a plastic bag, all before pouring lighter fluid over that bag and setting it on fire.
“Fuck Trump,” the person says before lighting the bag.
According to the City of Virginia Beach, those ballots are not real. Instead, officials said they are clearly sample ballots, as they lack “bar code markings that are on all official ballots.”
What Are Social Media Platforms Doing to Stop Conspiracy Theories?
As for what social media platforms are doing to combat the spread of these conspiracy theories, Twitter has now suspended the account of the user who uploaded the ballot burning video, meaning viewers can no longer see it.
However, all of that only happened after the video racked up more than 1.2 million views, and other versions of that video are still extremely easy to find on Twitter.
Regarding SharpieGate, Twitter has slapped warning labels on posts from notable people like Matt Schlapp, a right-wing lobbyist and former Bush staffer.
It’s also created a page dedicated to debunking this conspiracy theory.
Still, a simple glance on Schlapp’s profile will yield multiple SharpieGate tweets that haven’t been flagged.
In addition to Schlapp, numerous tweets from other people also haven’t been flagged.
On YouTube, tons of videos promoting SharpieGate have surfaced, but YouTube has reportedly told Business Insider that it doesn’t plan on removing them. Instead, it told the outlet that it would add an “information panel below these videos.”
That panel now reads, “Results may not be final. See the latest on Google.”
Meanwhile, Facebook has labeled at least one highly circulated SharpieGate video as “false information,” but by the time it did, that video had already been viewed 100,000 times.
Facebook has now blocked the hashtag, #SharpieGate.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Business Insider) (CNN)
Trump Mocks Florida Gov. “Ron DeSanctimonious” Ahead of Possible 2024 Bid
The former president may announce a bid to take back the White House on Nov. 14, according to his inner circle.
Trump Concocts His Latest Nickname
From “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” to “Sleepy Joe” and “Crazy Bernie,” former president Donald Trump’s nicknames for his political opponents have been known for their punchy style, but Republicans found it hard to swallow his latest mouthful for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“We’re winning big, big, big in the Republican Party for the nomination like nobody’s ever seen before,” he said Saturday at a rally in Pennsylvania. “Trump at 71, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10%.”
The former president drew rebuke from some allies and conservative commentators for driving a wedge through the GOP three days before the midterm elections.
“DeSantis is an extremely effective conservative governor who has had real policy wins and real cultural wins,” tweeted The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh. “Trump isn’t going to be able to take this one down with a dumb nickname. He better have more than that up his sleeve.”
“What an idiot,” wrote Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative. “DeSantis is a far more effective leader of the Right than Trump was, if, that is, you expect a leader to get a lot done, rather than just talking about it and owning the libs.”
In April 2021, Trump said he would “certainly” consider making DeSantis his running mate for a potential 2024 presidential bid. But as DeSantis established himself as a credible rival to Trump, their relationship grew colder.
Last September, sources told The Washington Post that Trump had called DeSantis “ungrateful” in conversations with advisors. The former president reportedly had not spoken with the governor in months.
The Party of Trump or DeSantis?
One day after his “DeSanctimonious” jab, Trump took to the stage in Florida to support Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R) reelection campaign but grabbed more attention when he seemed to endorse DeSantis for governor.
“The people of Florida are going to reelect the wonderful, the great friend of mine, Marco Rubio to the United States Senate, and you’re going to reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor of your state,” he said to the cheering crowd.
The brief moment of support was overshadowed, however, by the conspicuous absence of DeSantis himself.
Both men held competing, contemporaneous rallies in the same state hundreds of miles apart, and multiple sources told Politico that DeSantis was not invited to Trump’s event, nor did he ask to attend.
The governor has repeatedly refused to say whether he will make a run for the presidency in 2024, but national polling consistently puts Trump ahead of him among Republicans by a wide margin.
Some recent polls, however, have shown DeSantis to lead the former president in specific states like Florida and New Hampshire.
A survey last month found that 72% of GOP voters believe DeSantis should have a great or good deal of influence in the future direction of the party, while just 64% said the same about Trump.
Sources told Axios that Trump’s inner circle is discussing a Nov. 14 announcement for his presidential campaign, timing it to capitalize on the expected post-midterm euphoria as vote counts roll in.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (Politico)
The Midterms Are Tomorrow, But We May Not Have Results for a While. Here’s What You Need to Know
The counting of mail-in ballots and possible legal challenges will almost certainly slow the final results.
Election Delays Expected
As Americans gear up for Election Day on Nov. 8, experts are warning that many races, including some of the most highly anticipated ones, may not have the final results in for days or even weeks.
These delays are completely normal and do not indicate that election fraud or issues with vote counting took place. However, like in 2020, former President Donald Trump and other election-denying Republicans could seize on the slow-coming returns to promote false claims to that effect.
There are a number of very legitimate reasons why it could take some time before the final results are solidified. Each state has different rules for carrying out the election process, like when polls close and when ballots can start being counted.
There are also varying rules for when mail-in ballots can be received and counted that can extend when those votes will be tallied. That lag could seriously skew early results in many places because there has been a major rise in the number of people voting by mail.
Red Mirage, Blue Mirage
One very important thing to note is that the early returns seen on election night may not be representative of the final outcomes.
In 2020, there was a lot of talk about a “red mirage,” which is when ballots cast on election day and favoring Republicans are reported first while mail-in ballots used more by Democrats are counted later, creating the appearance that Republicans have a much wider lead.
That phenomenon may very well take place in several key battlegrounds that not only could decide the House and the Senate but also have incredibly consequential state-wide elections of their own.
For example, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, election officials cannot start counting mail-in and absentee ballots until Election Day.
Some experts have also speculated that a similar occurrence could occur in Georiga because the suburbs — which have shifted blue in recent years — report their results later than rural counties.
At the same time, there are also some states where the opposite might happen: a blue mirage that makes it seem like Democrats are doing better than they actually are.
Such a scenario is possible in Arizona, where election officials can process mail-in ballots as soon as they receive them, and where a similar trend played out in 2020.
Other Possible Slow-Downs
Beyond all that, there are a number of other factors that could delay when results are finalized.
For example, in Georgia, candidates need to get at least 50% of the vote to win, and if none do, then the top two are sent to a run-off election on Dec. 6. That is a very real possibility for the state’s closely-watched Senate race because there is a libertarian on the ballot who could siphon enough votes from Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock to keep them both below the 50% threshold.
In other words: if control of the Senate comes down to Georgia again — as it did in 2020 and which is a very real possibility — voters may not know the outcome until a month after the election.
Meanwhile, experts also say that legal battles over mail-in ballots could further delay results, or even go to the Supreme Court. According to The New York Times, before Election Day, over 100 lawsuits had already been filed.
In Pennsylvania, for example, the State Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of a lawsuit from Republican groups requesting that mail-in ballots that did not have dates on outer envelopes be invalidated, causing thousands of ballots to be set aside. Multiple rights groups are now suing to get that decision reversed.
DHS Confirms Paul Pelosi Attacker is a Canadian National in the U.S. Illegally
The suspect espoused many political conspiracy theories promoted by the American far-right and told investigators he wished to harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send a message to other U.S. politicians.
Pelosi Attacker’s Immigration Issues
The man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi and trying to kidnap House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) is a Canadian national currently residing in the United States illegally, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) late Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials say the suspect embraced far-right conspiracies about U.S. politicians and told investigators he wanted to break the House Speaker’s kneecaps as a lesson to other members of Congress.
Despite his lack of citizenship, the man also allegedly told police he was on a “suicide mission” and had a list of state and federal lawmakers he wanted to target.
In its statement to the media, DHS said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had lodged a “detainer” on the suspect, which is a notice the agency intends to take custody of an individual who could be deported and requests it be notified before that person is released. The detainer, however, likely will not impact the case against him, because deportations are civil proceedings that happen after criminal cases are resolved.
According to several reports, federal records indicate the suspect came to the U.S. legally via Mexico in March 2008. Canadians who travel to America for business or pleasure are usually able to stay in the country for six months without a visa. DHS told The Washington Post the Canadian citizen was admitted as a “temporary visitor” traveling for pleasure.
Before the confirmation from DHS, there was some mixed reporting on how long the suspected attacker has been in America. On Monday, an anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press the man had legally entered in 2000 but stayed way after his visa expired.
One day later, The New York Times reported he was registered to vote in San Francisco County from 2002 to 2009, and even voted once in 2002.
Heightened Security Concerns
The new revelation comes as lawmakers are facing increased threats, prompting conversations about safety and security with a specific focus on the role of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).
On Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that USCP security cameras trained on the Pelosi’s house actually captured the attack, but no one was watching. In a statement Wednesday, the agency said its command center has access to around 1,800 cameras and not all are watched constantly.
The Capitol Police also said that the Pelosi’s home is “actively” monitored “around the clock” when the Speaker is there, but not when she is in Washington.
As a result, many argued that there should be more security and surveillance for the second person in line for the presidency — especially given the threat of violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection and warnings from law enforcement ahead of the midterms.
That was echoed in a scathing letter yesterday sent to Capitol Police by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca.), who is one of the most senior Democrats in Congress and heads the Administration Committee.
In her letter, Lofgren noted that the agency “has previously reported to the committee that the speaker receives the most threats of any member of Congress,” and asked why that protection was not extended “to the spouses and/or other family members of the congressional leaders in the presidential line of succession.”
She questioned why the USCP had turned down an offer from the FBI for some of its officers to be part of terrorism task forces investigating threats against Congressmembers and why it had not made a formal agreement with San Francisco police for a car to be posted at the Pelosi’s home 24-hours a day as had been done in the months after Jan. 6.
Lofgren also inquired why the Capitol Police did not direct more threats against lawmakers for prosecution. She noted that members of Congress received at least 9,625 threats in 2021, but just 217 were referred.
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders, suspected mass murderers, or those accused of committing violent crimes who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.