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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson November 5, 2020

Video of ‘ballot stuffing’ is not from a Flint, Mich., polling place. It’s from Russia

If Your Time is short

• A video purportedly showing ballot-stuffing in Flint, Mich., is not from any Flint polling place. It was shot in Russia.

• The video was published in a Washington Post news article in 2018.

• The polling place has prominently posted logos that look like the Russian Federation’s coat of arms.

A video purportedly showing election officials "stuffing ballots" in Flint, Mich., a Democratic-leaning city of 95,000 people, wasn’t taken at a Flint polling site at all. It appears to show an election in Russia.

The video, posted on Facebook, shows election workers depositing ballots into a collection box. It uses shading to spotlight the box, suggesting that the entry of those ballots was improper. The caption reads: "Here we have staffers stuffing ballots in flint mi."

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The notion that a predominantly Democratic city would be stuffing ballots aligns with debunked claims by President Donald Trump of "surprise ballot dumps" erasing his lead in certain states, such as Michigan. 

But there’s no evidence of it here. Brian Larkin, chief of staff for the city of Flint, told PolitiFact: "This is absolutely not a Flint polling site. The setup does not meet State of Michigan requirements that must be adhered to."

He added that, "based upon our familiarity with all of our poll workers, we can positively say these are not Flint residents or election inspectors."

In fact, it was reported by the Washington Post in March 2018 that the video in question comes from Russia. 

"Videos posted online show two election workers coordinating the casual stuffing of ballots into a box in the center of a polling station," the Post reported. "After the video, taken by a CCTV camera, circulated online, police and election commission officials went to the polling station to investigate. The chairman of the local election commission and a member of the election commission were dismissed from their posts."

Even without knowing that, there’s another giveaway: Our eye was immediately drawn to a double-headed eagle crest that appears both on the ballot box and on two nearby voting booths. 

Featured Fact-check

It doesn’t look like either of the two logos Flint uses:

However, it does appear to be a version of a "double-headed eagle" that is common in Russia. Here’s the coat of arms of the Russian Federation:

The symbol dates back centuries in Russia. London’s Victoria & Albert Museum has written that "the most widespread opinion about the double-headed eagle is that the two heads face East and West, which symbolises the geographic position of Russia." 

The video does not depict a Flint polling place. 

We rate the post Pants on Fire!

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Nov. 4, 2020

U.S. Census Bureau, data on Flint, Mich., accessed Nov. 5, 2020

Logos for the City of Flint, Mich., accessed Nov. 5, 2020

Russian State Duma, "The modern coat of arms of the Russian Federation celebrates its 25th anniversary," Nov. 30, 2018

YouTube, "Russia 2018 Voter fraud caught on camera," Nov. 4, 2020

Victoria & Albert Museum, "Russia & the double-headed eagle," accessed Nov. 5, 2020

Washington Post, "Videos online show blatant ballot-stuffing in Russia," March 19, 2018

PolitiFact, "No, President Trump, ‘ballot dumps’ in key states were not a magical surprise," Nov. 4, 2020

Interview with Brian Larkin, chief of staff for Flint, Mich., Nov. 5, 2020

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Video of ‘ballot stuffing’ is not from a Flint, Mich., polling place. It’s from Russia

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