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Political Extremism in the Public Square: A resource for journalists and voters
PolitiFact and the Poynter Institute are offering free training for journalists on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, to stay sharp during the midterms. PolitiFact and the Poynter Institute are offering free training for journalists on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, to stay sharp during the midterms.

PolitiFact and the Poynter Institute are offering free training for journalists on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, to stay sharp during the midterms.

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman June 9, 2022

If Your Time is short

  • PolitiFact is fact-checking claims about the U.S. voting system and claims about voter fraud.
  • PolitiFact is also partnering with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies on training for journalists to better report on increased intimidation, threats and violence surrounding the democratic process.
  • Training is available for free for jounalists, and out fact-checks are available to be republished. For more information, contact [email protected]

Disinformation about election processes and alleged election fraud is falsely stoking anger among voters who feel neglected by their government. That same disinformation — perpetuated by online elements and amplified by some pundits and politicians — has created tense situations across the United States. As Americans head toward the 2022 midterm elections, there is no evidence these pressures are waning.

With support from the Joyce Foundation, PolitiFact is working with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies on a series of programs to address these challenges.

The Poynter Institute is training journalists so that they can be better prepared to cover and report on issues related to voter suppression and intimidation. And PolitiFact is holding politicians, pundits and online actors accountable by debunking election-related disinformation ahead of the 2022 election. That work is free and available to publishers across the country.

Though it received the most global attention, the insurrection at the U.S. capitol is just one example of a disinformation-fueled attack on the American democratic process. And it didn’t end the trend toward mainstream extremism. How do you cover elections for a public that is extremely fractured? This free online seminar will help local journalists stay safe and produce ethical, excellent stories about voting, security and local issues leading up to the 2022 midterms and beyond.

PolitiFact's most recent fact-checks

PolitiFact fact-checks are available to be republished. For information, email [email protected].

Fact-checking Arizona’s Blake Masters’ claim of open borders and Democratic amnesty plans

Blake Masters, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in Arizona, said that to win more elections, "Democrats want open borders so they can bring in and amnesty tens of millions of illegal aliens." The rules, manpower and hardware at the southwest border might not satisfy Masters, but he exaggerates by saying the border is open. The process of becoming a U.S. citizen — and therefore earning the right to register to vote — can take many years. And there is no guarantee that newly arriving immigrants several years from now will vote for Democrats. We rate this claim False.

Debunking the zombie claim that ‘dead people always vote Democrat’

Kevin Rinke, a Republican candidate for Michigan governor, said in an ad that "dead people always vote Democrat." Not every case of voting on behalf of the dead has been discovered, adjudicated in court, and received media coverage. However, six cases that have surfaced during the past five years produced either a plea of guilty or no contest, and in each case the defendant was either a registered Republican or acknowledged voting for Trump. Even this small number of cases is enough to invalidate Rinke’s sweeping statement that only Democrats do this. Usually when such cases occur, it involves individuals who fill out a mail ballot in the name of a close family member who has died. We rated this statement False

Why Trump is wrong to call Alaska’s ranked choice voting 'rigged'

Trump is free to dislike ranked choice voting, but his characterization is wrong. Ranked choice voting is a legal way to conduct elections, and the voters’ choices rule. Alaska has a history of secure and transparent elections run by bipartisan teams, and that structure doesn’t go away with ranked choice voting.

In 2020, Trump laid the groundwork for blaming his loss on a "stolen" and "rigged" election — statements we found ridiculous. He is using a similar approach here in his efforts to denounce a senator who supported his impeachment after the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. We rated this statement Pants on Fire.

No, pens provided by Arizona election officials aren’t part of a plot to rig state primary

Social media users have suggested there is something wrong with the Pentel pens provided by Maricopa elections officials and that they are part of a plot to rig the Arizona primary Aug. 2.

The county tested the pens and found they dry quickly, which helps during in-person voting when voters feed their ballots into the tabulation machine. If voters use a pen that doesn’t dry quickly, it can smudge the ballot or muck up the tabulation machine, requiring cleaning and slowing the voting process. We found no evidence the pens are part of a nefarious scheme by election officials. We rate this statement False.

Arizona Republican secretary of state candidate wrong about ‘fake’ mail ballots

Mark Finchem, the Republican running for Arizona secretary of state, said, "In Arizona, we have flood the zone with fake ballots."

Finchem’s description suggests that ballots are mailed out en masse to voters that did not request them. But that’s now how it works  — and there’s no evidence of pervasive fraud or fakery.

Arizona voters must take steps to receive a mail ballot, whether it’s for a specific election or a continuing basis. Finchem’s statement is an inaccurate and ridiculous summation that could discourage voter participation in a legitimate process. We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

Show ID to buy whipped cream, but not to vote? In New York, that’s misleading

Social media posts claim that you need an ID to purchase whipped cream in New York, but you don’t need an ID to vote there. 

Identification is not necessary to purchase cans of whipped cream. Some stores misinterpreted a new law meant to curb young adults’ abuse of nitrous oxide via whipped cream chargers — not whipped cream cans — and required an ID. Further communication from the bill’s sponsor has cleared the confusion.

New York requires identification when people register to vote, but not when they cast their ballots. If the Board of Elections cannot verify voters’ identities before Election Day, those voters must present identification when they vote. Voters who do not have identification won’t be turned away but will be asked to cast affidavit, or provisional ballots. We rate this claim Mostly False

How Tom Cotton misleads about ranked choice voting in Alaska

Cotton tweeted "60% of Alaska voters voted for a Republican, but thanks to a convoluted process and ballot exhaustion — which disenfranchises voters — a Democrat ‘won.’" Mary Peltola, the Democrat,achieved a legitimate win in a state in which the electorate approved ranked choice voting as the law. We rated this statement Mostly False.

See more fact-checks at politifact.com/elections.

Understanding the basics

PolitiFact is creating a series of stories to better understand the big issues when it comes to voting and democratic processes. The explainers, which are available to republish, help readers understand issues like voter fraud, how the election process functions, and what laws that govern election security and election intimidation, among other issues. For information about republishing these stories, email [email protected].

The faulty premise of the ‘2,000 mules’ trailer about voting by mail in the 2020 election

A documentary by Dinesh D’Souza, a far-right commentator, furthers the myth that something sinister occurred with mail ballots and ballot drop boxes during the 2020 election. D’Souza told Fox News that "mules" delivered 400,000 illegal votes. Experts say the evidence D’Souza points to is inherently flawed. "If there is credible evidence, where is it?" said Kenneth Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "This is not it."

Democracy experts support Alaska’s move to ranked choice voting. Here’s why

In 2020, Alaska voters approved a change in their voting system to ranked choice voting. For the general election, voters rank the candidates in order of their preference. As soon as one candidate wins 50% plus 1, they win, going as many rounds as it takes. Ranked choice voting has previously been used in Maine as well as multiple cities as varied as jurisdictions in Utah to New York City. Democracy experts say ranked choice voting makes it less likely that an ideologically extreme candidate can prevail by winning a small plurality of the vote in a crowded primary. 

How ‘Stop the steal’ Republicans seeking office hope to restrict voting

A coalition of more than a dozen Republicans is running on a shared platform that would make big changes to how U.S. elections operate. They have campaigned on the false premise that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. The coalition’s platform includes wiping out early and mail voting, two options that have grown in popularity with voters, and requiring almost everyone to vote on Election Day. The coalition’s platform poses risks for voters and threatens democracy.

A coalition of ‘stop the steal’ Republicans aims to take control of US elections. QAnon is helping

The coalition of Republicans running to take control of the chief elections offices in swing states includes the involvement of a mysterious but influential promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, who goes by the alias "Juan O Savin." Some adherents of the movement falsely believe he is the late John F. Kennedy Jr. in disguise. 

Poll workers are short-staffed, under attack — and quietly defending democracy

Falsehoods about voting, threats and the lingering effects of COVID-19 have made recruiting poll workers more challenging, but they are stepping up nationwide.  Poll workers told PolitiFact that they’re motivated by a desire to contribute to their communities, to get a closer look at how elections operate and to help enable their neighbors to cast ballots.

What journalists need to know about the laws on covering elections

When a journalist is covering the process of voting – whether it’s for mayor, governor or U.S. Senator –  the goal is the same: show the public the truth about the administration of elections. Accurate reporting about elections helps reduce the spread of unfounded rumors. We explain the types of information journalists should gather months before Election Day such as the laws about photographing election sites, obtaining public records and how to prepare to cover potential protests.

How will social media platforms respond to election misinformation? It isn’t clear

Major social media platforms have policies that prohibit spreading falsehoods about elections. But their enforcement of these policies varies and is hard to track. Advocates are calling for platforms to take proactive steps to limit election misinformation and haven’t been satisfied with the response. Misinformation is still evident across the major platforms. We explained our findings about policies by Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube in a story.

Why many voters in Arizona, Missouri will use voting centers, not precincts, on Election Day

Vote centers were pioneered by Larimer County in Colorado in 2003 to reduce costs and give voters more convenient choices. Vote centers are now allowed in 18 states including Arizona. St Louis County, Missouri transitioned to vote centers in 2020 due to pandemic-related shortages for polling sites and poll workers. We explain the benefits and potential pitfalls of vote centers in a story.

Why the ‘stop the steal’ Arizona Republicans are wrong about 2020

Arizona is one of the battleground states in which "stop the steal" candidates affiliated with QAnon and backed by Donald Trump tout the dangerous falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats. These election deniers include Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for secretary of state and wants to largely get rid of voting by mail in a state where most voters support and use it. Blake Masters, who won the U.S. Republican Senate primary, has suggested cheating will occur during the midterms. And Abraham Hamadeh, who won the primary for attorney general, has promised to "prosecute the crimes of the rigged 2020 election." We look at the platforms of these candidates and the multiple pieces of evidence showing that the 2020 presidential election was secure. 

Before election, Michigan Republicans blast Secretary of State Benson for her oversight of last one

Hoping to score midterm election victories, Republican candidates and the Michigan GOP are focusing their ire on Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson — specifically, how she oversaw the 2020 election. We fact-checked some of the allegations of misconduct leveled against Benson.

This story was updated Sept. 19, 2022.

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Political Extremism in the Public Square: A resource for journalists and voters