Times-Union readers want to know:
I saw on Facebook that illegal voters were bused in to Alabama to swing the election to Doug Jones. I read that a small town of 1,800 people had more than 5,000 votes for Jones. Is any of this factual?
Democrat Doug Jones was elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election on Dec. 12. His Republican opponent, Roy Moore, still hasn’t conceded.
In that time, a number of websites have posted made-up stories suggesting that rampant voter fraud contributed to Jones winning by an unofficial margin of 20,715 votes.
But, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees statewide elections, doesn’t usually comment on reports of voter fraud, but it has not received reports in any numbers that would change the outcome of the election, Communications Director John Bennett told FactCheck.org on Dec. 13.
Since then, the same network of “satirical” websites that originally published that bogus story have brought forth some more, stating that the outcome of the election is questionable. But disclaimers on each of the websites states that “Everything on this site is fiction.”
FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network. Those Facebook users flagged some of the stories after they were published by other websites without a satire label.
FactCheck.org points out the following claims:
Claim: Black residents from other states were bused in to vote for Jones.
A story on the Patriot Post website had the headline: “BREAKING: Busload Of Blacks From 3 States Drove To Alabama To Vote Illegally.” But all of the details in the story were fabricated.
For example, the story quotes a fictional official from the “State Election Integrity Board,” which FactCheck.org found does not exist. Then it says that 27 black people were arrested at “Warsaw Middle School in Selma,” which is not a real school. It also identifies the Selma police chief as “Santiago Swearinger;” his name is actually Spencer Collier.
In addition, the story also contained the photos of eight young African-Americans who were not involved in the Alabama special election. The photos were taken in 2014 after those eight teens were arrested for allegedly throwing rocks and food from their school bus at passing vehicles in South Carolina, FactCheck.org reported.
Claim: Thousands of fraudulent votes were recorded in one small Alabama town.
The headline on another fake story from Ladies of Liberty, a related website to the Patriot Post, reads: “‘Thousands’ Voted For Doug Jones In Alabama Town With Population Of 2,256.”
The story said the town of “Bordalama,” which is described as being 20 miles outside of Birmingham, recorded 5,327 votes for Jones, even though it has only 2,256 residents. But there is no such place of Bordalama in Alabama, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A link on Bordalama in the story takes readers to the website for the cartoon band “Hampton and the Hampsters.”
The bogus story suggests that the votes of dead residents were counted for Jones, and a photo shows headstones decorated with “I voted” stickers. That picture, though, has been part of a popular internet meme, titled “Democratic Voter Registration,” that has been in circulation since at least 2012, FactCheck.org reported.
The original photo of headstones — without the stickers — appeared online as early as 2007, when it was used to illustrate a Ukrainian website’s story about the psychological effect the fear of death has on people.
Claim: 13 Hispanic men voted multiple times.
This fake story, also posted by Ladies of Liberty, falsely claims that the “Birmingham Press” reported that “polling officials caught what appears to be a ‘van full of illegals’ who traveled to at least 7 polling locations with fake identification to vote for Moore’s opponent Doug Jones.”
That was not reported by the “Birmingham Press,” which is the name of a British website, not an Alabama news publication. A link to the alleged article leads to the same bogus story about unauthorized immigrants voting that was published on fellow “satirical” website, No Fake News Online.
The story says that the vehicle transporting the men was stopped by law enforcement at “Santa Recto Middle School in Wilmington,” as reported by the “Santa Recto Observer.” But there is no school or newspaper by those names, FactCheck.org found. And “San Salmos” and “Puerta Gorda” — where some of the men were alleged to be from — are not countries.
There is only one person named in the story, “Marcos Ramos.” But that is also the name of a made-up character in another bogus Patriot Post story about illegal voting in Alabama, FactCheck.org found. That story claimed the “32-year-old Marcos Ramos” worked at the Democratic National Committee, according to the “Mobile Press,” a non-existent publication.
In addition, the Patriot Post’s fake story contains an image of two men, but neither man is “Ramos.” One photo shows a Mexican national who pleaded guilty in 2016 to smuggling methamphetamine into New Mexico. The other photo of an unidentified immigrant being deported to Mexico was used in a 2016 Arizona Republic story about illegal U.S. border crossings.