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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman October 20, 2020

4chan users spread false information about Oregon’s election website

If Your Time is short

  • 4chan users fueled false claims that people could change Oregon voters’ ballots on the state website.

  • No votes can be cast or canceled through the Oregon elections website.

  • Election officials have procedures in place to verify the validity of ballots, including through voters’ signatures.

A thread on a fringe internet forum falsely says that anyone with basic biographical information about an Oregon voter can go on the state elections’ website and change the way that person voted.

One claim in a YouTube video states that "4chan just changed Portland Or. Mayor Ted Wheeler’s vote to Donald Trump using the voter registration exploit." Wheeler is a Democrat and has clashed with Trump, so the idea that he would cast a ballot for Trump seems ludicrous. A spokesperson for Wheeler said that he hadn’t voted yet.

Similar claims were flagged by CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool. A thread on 4chan featured users claiming, with screenshots, that they could go in and change people’s votes by using names and addresses. This quickly went viral on social media platforms, despite debunking on Twitter and Reddit.

4chan is a forum that allows anyone to post anonymously. It is a known source of online disinformation, hate speech and conspiracy theories.

State and local elections officials in Oregon told us that people can’t go on to the state website and change voters’ ballots.

"No votes can be cast or cancelled online through MyVote," said Andrea Chiapella, spokesperson for the Oregon Secretary of State.

Oregon is a long-time vote by mail state. Military and overseas voters  as well as voters with disabilities can download their ballot, but there are protections in place to prevent someone from casting a ballot on behalf of another voter.

The misinformation on social media centers around the "mark my ballot" field on the state elections website. 

"The mark my ballot tool helps voters with disabilities and military and overseas voters to mark their ballot," Chiapella said. "They still must return the ballot with the proper identifying information, including their signature, which will be compared against the voter’s signature in the voter registration file before being accepted to count."

We tested out the "mark my ballot" tool by entering the name and date of birth of Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno. The website showed that Clarno was sent a ballot on Oct. 14 in Deschutes County. Then we clicked on the "mark my ballot" option and the top of the page said "only for use by military, overseas and voters with disabilities." 

The online form then allows a voter to mark their selections by clicking on boxes next to the names of candidates they choose. Afterward, the voter can review her ballot, showing only the selections she made. The instructions state that the voter has to then print the page and return it to their county election office. 

While we could theoretically fill out the form online, that doesn’t mean we could actually submit it (and we didn’t try). In fact, that would be a crime, and there are protections in place to prevent that from happening. 

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Altering someone’s voter registration or attempting to vote another person’s ballot are both crimes in Oregon. It is a felony punishable with up to 5 years in prison and a $125,000 fine, Chiapella said. 

The voters still must return the ballot with the proper identifying information, including their signature, which will be compared against their signature in the voter registration file before being accepted.

If someone attempted to sign the ballot on behalf of another voter, "odds are pretty thin they would know what the voter’s signature looks like" and not returning it in the appropriate envelope would also flag that ballot, said Nancy Blankenship, county clerk for Deschutes County.

Voters who are in the military or overseas can mail back their completed ballots in the return identification envelopes that are provided. If they choose to return their ballots by fax or email, there is an additional secret ballot waiver form they must submit

Disabled voters enclose their ballots in provided secrecy envelopes and then place them in the return identification envelopes, which they must sign before they put it in the mail or a ballot drop box.

Zane Sparling, a reporter for the Portland Tribune, tweeted that "simply clicking these buttons does not create a vote. The form must be submitted by fax or email, and the form does not work unless you have been granted absentee ballot status by an elections official."

RELATED: How to make sure your ballot is counted this fall

Our ruling

A thread on 4chan said if you know someone's name and date of birth you can change their votes on Oregon’s voting website.

The state elections website does not allow voters to cast ballots online. If you can’t vote online, you certainly can’t change someone’s vote online. Military and overseas voters  as well as voters with disabilities can download their ballot online, but they must return the ballot with the proper identifying information, including their signature. Their signature will be compared against their signature in the voter registration file before being accepted.

Altering someone’s voter registration or attempting to vote another person’s ballot are both crimes in Oregon. It is a felony punishable with up to 5 years in prison and a $125,000 fine. 

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

Spot a claim about potential misinformation about voting? Email [email protected]

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Our Sources

Oregon Secretary of State, Website and instructions for military and overseas voters and voters with disabilities, Accessed Oct. 20, 2020

The Vice, 4Chan’s Pathetic Attempt to Alter Votes Isn’t Going to Accomplish Anything, Oct. 20, 2020

YouTube video, Accessed Oct. 19, 2020

Portland Tribune reporter Zane Sparling, Twitter thread, Oct. 18, 2020

Reddit thread, Oct. 18, 2020

Storyful, From Fringe to Mainstream: Tracking the Pathways of Misinformation on Social Media, Nov. 5, 2018

Email and telephone interview, Andrea Chiapella, spokesperson for the Oregon Secretary of State, Oct. 19-20, 2020

Telephone interview, Nancy Blankenship, county clerk for Deschutes County, Oct. 19, 2020

Email interview, Eric Sample, spokesperson for Multnomah County Elections Division, Oct. 19-20, 2020

Email interview, James Middaugh, spokesperson for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Oct. 20, 2020

 

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4chan users spread false information about Oregon’s election website

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