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A woman in Sacramento, Calif. drops off her ballot at a vote center. Andrew Nixon / CapRadio A woman in Sacramento, Calif. drops off her ballot at a vote center. Andrew Nixon / CapRadio

A woman in Sacramento, Calif. drops off her ballot at a vote center. Andrew Nixon / CapRadio

Chris Nichols
By Chris Nichols September 1, 2020

Instagram Posts Make False Claim CA Voters Will Be ‘Turned Away’ From Polls Due To Mail-In Voting

If Your Time is short

  • Posts on Instagram claimed California voters would be "turned away" from polling places unless they changed their voting preference to "No to mail in voting." 

  • Election officials rejected the claim, saying voters do not need to make any changes to their voting preference to vote in-person. 

  • Californians will have several in-person and mail-in voting options this fall.

Widely-shared posts on Instagram on Monday claimed California voters would be "turned away" from in-person polling places on Election Day unless they change their voting preference to "No mail-in voting." 

Election experts quickly rejected that message. 

We examined the details in this fact check.

Our research

The social media posts include an image of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and allege he changed the voting preference for "EVERY single voter in CA" to "vote by mail." It goes on to claim that this move will lead to people being turned away at polling places unless they make a change to their voter preference.

The posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about PolitiFact California’s partnership with Facebook, which owns Instagram). 

We found this greatly distorts what Newsom did and makes a false accusation about its consequences. Here are the facts:

Back in June, Newsom signed a law that requires counties to send all active registered voters a mail-in ballot this fall. He said the move was necessary due to health concerns over casting a ballot in-person during a pandemic. The law does not eliminate in-person voting options, though there won’t be as many polling places.

Nor does it require voters to do anything different to vote in-person. 

"You do not need to change anything with your voter registration in order to participate in-person in this election," said Sam Mahood, spokesperson for the California Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees the state’s election. 

Mahood described the claim about being "turned away" at the polls as "definitely misinformation." He said his office reported the posts to Instagram and Facebook and noted that some had been taken down.

Mahood added that the new law does not alter the voting preference Californians select when they register to vote. If their preference is listed as in-person voting, they will continue to be listed that way in future elections. 

California's In-Person Voting Options

There are several ways California voters can participate in-person. Voters can fill out their ballot at home, place it inside the envelope provided and turn it in at a polling place, their county elections office or a ballot drop box. Voters must sign the outside of the envelope for their ballot to be counted. 

If voters want to fill out a ballot at a polling place, election officials recommend they bring their vote-by-mail ballot with them to "surrender" it at the polls, which essentially means they will exchange it for a ballot at the polling location and the vote-by-mail ballot will be canceled. 

Voters can also fill out their mail-in ballot at a polling place and turn it in onsite, though Mahood said election officials are encouraging people to fill out those ballots in advance to cut down on crowds at the polls.

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For those who don’t bring their vote-by-mail ballots, there are still options. They will receive either a provisional ballot or, if they are in a county that uses the new vote center model, poll workers should be able to print them a new and regular ballot onsite, Mahood said. 

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, which advocates for voters, said there are ways the public can slow the spread of election misinformation. 

She said officials are using the hashtag #TrustedInfo2020 to help voters identify reliable election information online.

Meanwhile, the California Voter Foundation is urging voters "to SIFT information before they share it." SIFT stands for "Stop, Investigate, Find reliable info, and Trace sources before sharing anything via social media," Alexander said. 

As for the claim at the center of this fact check, Alexander agreed it "is absolutely false."

"We have many failsafes in our voting process to ensure no one is turned away," she said.

Our rating

Social media posts claimed California voters would be "turned away" from in-person voting unless they made a change online to their voter preference by selecting "No mail-in voting." 

That is simply not the case. Voters don’t need to make any voting preference change to cast their ballot in-person. 

All active registered voters will receive a mail-in ballot ahead of Election Day, as part of an effort to stay safe amid the pandemic. 

But there are in-person voting options and none require Californians to make any changes to their voting preferences. 

The claims in these social media posts are both inaccurate and reckless, deserving of our most severe designation.  

We rate them Pants On Fire. 

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

CapRadio and PolitiFact California are fact-checking election misinformation and answering your questions about voting through the November 2020 election. Email us your questions and ideas for a fact check at [email protected], or contact us on Twitter or Facebook.


PolitiFact California, No, California Is Not Sending Mail-In Ballots "To Anyone In The State," As Trump Falsely Claimed, May 26, 2020

PolitiFact California, How Early Should You Send In Your Mail-in Ballot To Make Sure It Gets Counted? It Varies By State, July 29, 2020

PolitiFact California, Answering Questions About Vote-By-Mail In California Amid COVID-19, Attacks By Trump, June 2, 2020

PolitiFact California, Trump Draws False Contrast Between Absentee, Mail-In Voting, Election Experts Say, July 30, 2020

Our Sources

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Instagram Posts Make False Claim CA Voters Will Be ‘Turned Away’ From Polls Due To Mail-In Voting

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