To say the 2020 presidential election has been a little stressful would be a vast understatement. Hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – voting by mail, record-breaking turnout, riots and protests, and the candidates themselves have made Nov. 3 and the days following a nail-biting, hair-pulling strain on the nerves. But that is just a drop in the bucket compared to the reported shenanigans sweeping the airwaves and internet as voters and politicians alike scratch their heads and wonder just what the hell happened! Fact or fiction – are there any truths to the accusations, or are they just conspiracy theories?
There was quite a bit of confusion among many states, including Wisconsin, when it came to which writing implement should be used to fill out the ballots. Should we use patriotic colors and mark our choices with the color of our favored party? How about a black pen – or perhaps a Sharpie? Turns out it’s no laughing matter, as many voters have complained – especially in Arizona – that their votes were being canceled because they used a marker. Social media saw the hashtag #sharpiegate trending after voters in Maricopa County complained they were forced to use the felt-tipped writing utensil. They claim that they watched their ballots be set aside after the machines rejected them because the ink bled through.
On Facebook, Shelli Richardson Boggs posted an image of a canceled ballot and said:
“Votes are being canceled due to bleed through from sharpies. Voters are being told that an election worker will fill out a new ballot at the ballot center. Now what could go wrong with that? Ballot status photo attached. I have the voter’s name if you need it. People are handing out pens to voters at the Communiversity.”
Maricopa County Community College Board member Kathleen Winn put a lot of the blame on the county recorder, Adrian Fontes. She told the Arizona Daily Independent that he has changed the once well-regarded office “into a political machine. From cross outs, to Sharpies and Fontes’ employees openly advocating for the Biden Harris ticket, what could possibly go wrong?” Earlier this year, Fontes was sued after he instructed voters to cross out votes cast in error instead of asking for a new ballot. The Arizona Supreme Court forced him to remove the instruction, and some suggest the Sharpie bleed-through issue would have the same effect since poll workers would be tasked with trying to decide what the voter intended.
However, Arizona state officials insist that the felt pens are perfectly safe to use and sent out numerous messages trying to alleviate fears. “There is no concern about ballots being counted because of the pen being used to count ballots,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said on Nov. 4.
Facebook fact-checkers were hard at work, censoring and removing the #sharpiegate posts and putting warning labels on anything they deemed possible misinformation.
Counting Votes Before They’re Hatched
On the subject of counting ballots, more than a few people were bewildered after going to bed on Election Night with incumbent Donald Trump leading and then waking up to find a drastically different situation the next day.
Republicans were a bit ticked off when Arizona was called for Joe Biden well before enough votes were counted to be sure. Indeed, only 84% of the votes had been reported by Wednesday night. What happened? According to The New York Times, a data feed error from Edison Research led some outlets to incorrectly claim 98% of votes had been counted.
One of the most significant controversies comes from Wisconsin. It – with its ten electoral votes – was called for Biden. At one point, a tweet surfaced, suggesting there were more votes counted than registered voters. Fact-checkers rose to the occasion, quickly calling the information false. But that didn’t stop other accusations of malarky. Take a look at this video and the reporters’ confusion when, suddenly and as if by magic, the state turned to Biden.
— OffGuardian (@OffGuardian0) November 4, 2020
Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said, “There have been reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results.” He added, “The President is well within the threshold to request a recount and we will immediately do so.” The campaign filed a lawsuit on Nov. 4 to halt the counting of ballots in the state until “meaningful access” to counting locations is given.
The sudden surge in votes cast for Biden happened after ballot dumps that took place in the wee hours of Nov. 4. In the first, Biden received 138,339 votes in Michigan to Trump’s – uh, zero! While the president had a reasonably comfortable lead at bedtime the night before, Wednesday found Biden miraculously leading by about 20,000 votes. Then it happened again – this time in Wisconsin. And once again, 100% of the new ballots went to Biden. As The Federalist reported, “election officials in Antrim County [MI] said they were investigating what they called ‘skewed’ results, working with the company that provides their election software to see what went wrong.”
In Pennsylvania, Trump’s campaign is suing to stop late ballot counting since the state officials approved allowing ballots received after Election Day. One of the argued issues with this process is that it doesn’t matter when the mail was postmarked, which means there is no telling when the vote was actually cast. Another lawsuit was filed in Georgia after a GOP poll observer claimed to witness 53 late absentee ballots being added in Chatham County. Deputy Campaign Manager Justin Clark said, “We will not allow Democrat election officials to steal this election from President Trump with late, illegal ballots.” The county is home to Savannah, an urban area that leans strongly toward the Democratic Party.
The Negative Narrative
The mainstream media have been giving President Trump a lot of press over the past four years, and it has been mostly negative news. Then there are the social media giants – like Google, Facebook, and Twitter – which have come under fire for censoring conservative posts. These combined efforts, some people feel, have misled Americans. Many feel steered in the wrong direction thanks to a media apparatus that doesn’t provide all the facts and silences those with whom they disagree.
Reporting the news is a crucial duty (note I didn’t say “job”). Readers must be provided facts, not crying meltdowns, cursing narratives, and sensationalized headlines. When the Hunter Biden laptop scandal broke, the New York Post was criticized and even censored online for pushing false information – even though the report now appears factual. The establishment media seemed to take forever to finally start reporting on the story – and still they refused to drill candidate Joe Biden about his alleged connections with his son’s business dealings. President Trump was not afforded such grace in the face of any potential scandal, no matter how flimsy the allegation.
Rather than tuning in and getting the facts – free of fake news and bias – we have all been passengers in the backseat of the news bus, going wherever the media manipulators decide to drive us.
Whether real or imagined, the shenanigans leading up to and during the 2020 presidential election have made an impact – not just on the results, but on the division of Americans as well.
Read more by Kelli Ballard.