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• Ads with the words “BALLOT BOX” in large lettering were placed on two trash cans in Philadelphia on Oct. 23.
• The ads were for a history exhibit on voting rights.
• The Union League Legacy Foundation, which operates the exhibit, removed the ads within hours that same morning.
Accusations of voter suppression in Philadelphia spread just hours after ads for a history exhibit were plastered on trash bins.
Photos uploaded on Instagram showed a man putting up posters with the words "BALLOT BOX" in large lettering, on the side of a trash bin. The Instagram user accused the worker of an attempt to suppress votes.
"Stay vigilant, people. They will try anything. Make sure you drop off your ballot to a legit ballot box," reads the caption on the Oct. 27 Instagram post.
The 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.)
It’s misinformed. The poster on the trash bin was an advertisement for an exhibit on the history of voting rights, according to reports and the Union League Legacy Foundation. The foundation, which operates the exhibit titled "Ballot Box: America’s Fight for the Vote," unveiled the ads on Oct. 23. It removed the ads just hours later after complaints that voters could be misled to think they were official ballot boxes.
Kira Foley-Tuzman, chief administrative officer at the foundation, told PolitiFact the ads were posted on two trash cans near their Union League building on Broad Street, where it has placed ads before. She said the foundation took them down immediately after it received the first call about the confusion at around 10 a.m.
"There was no mal-intent — simply a flubbed execution on marketing," Foley-Tuzman said.
Philadelphia, a key city in a battleground state for the November election, has been the subject of attacks by President Donald Trump. He’s falsely accused Philadelphia of attempts at voter fraud and called on his supporters to distrust the results.
"Bad things happen in Philadelphia," Trump said during the first presidential debate.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the city’s sanitation workers checked the trash bins after the ads had been posted and found no ballots deposited there.
"We understand that there was confusion about the signs installed early this morning on trash receptacles about our exhibit on voting rights. The signs were removed," the Union League Legacy Foundation wrote on its Facebook page the morning of Oct. 23. "Please accept our apologies for any misunderstanding."
The Facebook post claimed that posters, with the words "BALLOT BOX" in large lettering, were placed on trash bins to suppress votes by misleading voters into thinking they were official ballot boxes.
The posters were advertisements for a history exhibit on voting rights. They were taken down shortly after complaints were made about the confusion.
We rate this claim False.
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Instagram post, Oct. 27, 2020
Facebook post, Oct. 23, 2020
LeadStories, "Fact Check: Trash Cans Plastered with ‘Ballot Box’ Signs in Philadelphia Were NOT Intended to Get People to Toss Ballots in the Trash -- the Signs Were Ads for a History Exhibit," accessed Oct. 28, 2020
Philadelphia Inquirer, "The Union League just wanted to advertise an exhibit on voting. Then it was accused of voter suppression," accessed Oct. 28, 2020
Philadelphia Inquirer, "Trump says ‘bad things happen in Philadelphia.’ Here’s what actually happened in Philadelphia," accessed Oct. 28, 2020
Philadelphia Inquirer, "Trump has put Philly on the front lines of his attack on voting," accessed Oct. 28, 2020
The Guardian, "Trump’s election day director is waging war on voting in Philadelphia," accessed Oct. 28, 2020
The Union League Legacy Foundation, "About the Union League Legacy Foundation," accessed Oct. 28, 2020
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