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Andy Nguyen
By Andy Nguyen July 19, 2022

Facebook post relies on debunked conspiracy theory for election fraud claim

If Your Time is short

  • Government officials have called the “Hammer and Scorecard” conspiracy theory, which is consistent with this claim, disinformation and nonsense. 
  • Voting machines have safeguards to prevent inconsistencies in votes being casted for any one candidate. 
  • A recanvass of votes for the 2019 Kentucky governor’s race found no evidence of voter fraud.

A Facebook video claims evidence of election fraud can be found in CNN’s 2019 coverage of the Kentucky governor’s race.

"What you’re about to see is the single most egregious, real-time example of electronic vote fraud maybe ever captured," a voiceover in the July 10 video says. "And it occurred live on CNN."

The video features a man talking about the changing vote totals in the race between Democrat Andy Beshear and Republican incumbent Matt Bevin as it plays a snippet of CNN’s 2019 broadcast, which featured on-screen graphics showing vote totals. A large graphic took up the main part of the screen; a small banner at the bottom of the screen showed the results.

Both graphics showed Beshear with 673,948 votes and Bevin with 662,235, but an update occurred during the portion of the broadcast featured in the video. After the update, the larger graphic showed Beshear with 674,508 votes and Bevin with 661,675 — a difference of 560 votes for both candidates.

There was a delay in updating the totals in the bottom banner, which meant the screen briefly and simultaneously showed Bevin with 661,675 votes in the larger graphic and 662,235 in the smaller graphic. The man narrating the video claims the discrepancy is proof the votes were stolen from Bevin and given to Beshear.

"This is vote switching in the computer," he says.

Beshear would go on to win the Nov. 5, 2019, election by more than 5,000 votes.

The video 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.)

Although it’s not mentioned in the narration or caption, the belief that the votes were changed electronically is consistent with the Hammer and Scorecard conspiracy theory — which PolitiFact previously ruled Pants on Fire. The theory suggests the "deep state," a cabal of entrenched government operatives, uses a supercomputer called "Hammer" to break into protected networks and change an election’s vote totals, aided by software called "Scorecard."

A former military contractor and self-described whistleblower with a history of making wildly inaccurate statements claimed he created the computer and program. The theory gained popularity after the 2020 presidential election among supporters of former President Donald Trump, who wanted to prove the election was stolen and overturn the results.

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Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security created by Trump in 2018, characterized the theory as disinformation and nonsense.

"It’s just that — nonsense," Krebs said in a 2020 tweet. "This is not a real thing, don’t fall for it and think 2x before you share."

CISA says every state has safeguards to ensure ballots cast during an election are correctly counted. Voting machines produce a paper audit trail, which can be manually counted as a check against the voting machine’s electronic result. There has been "no indication that cybervulnerabilities have contributed to any voting system deleting, losing or changing votes," the agency said.

Bevin initially refused to concede the Kentucky governor’s race to Beshear, and called for a recanvass of the votes. The recanvassing involved reprinting the receipts from the state’s voting machines to check for clerical or reporting errors and recounting the results to ensure the correct totals were sent to Kentucky’s State Board of Elections.  

The final results did not change for Bevin or Beshear, and there was no evidence found of 560 votes being taken from one candidate and given to another.

Election experts previously told PolitiFact inconsistencies in vote totals reported by news organizations like CNN don’t mean anything nefarious.

Philip Stark, a statistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley,  said the numbers reported by the media on election night are not binding. Only a government’s election agency can make the final call on a race’s vote totals. Stark said the numbers CNN relied on for its election night coverage came from a third-party vendor, making counting errors more likely. People trying to hack an election wouldn’t change the election night numbers on a widely seen news network, Stark said. They would change the numbers directly in a voting machine’s system.

Our ruling

A Facebook video claims to show that evidence from CNN’s coverage of the 2019 Kentucky governor’s race proves the election was stolen by changing votes after they were cast. 

The post relied on a debunked conspiracy theory that claims a supercomputer operated by a cabal of government operatives was used to change the results. 

Government officials and election experts say there are safeguards to catch inconsistencies in the numbers voting machines send and election offices receive. 

We rate this Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Facebook post, July 10, 2022

The New York Times, "2019 Kentucky governor general election results," Nov. 14, 2019

PolitiFact, "Debunking the ‘Hammer and Scorecard’ election fraud conspiracy theory," Nov. 10, 2020

The Daily Beast, "Infamous ‘hoax’ artist behind Trumpworld’s new voter fraud claim," Nov. 9, 2020

Chris Krebs, Twitter post, Nov. 7, 2020

Archive of Chris Krebs’ Twitter post

CISA, Election security rumor vs. reality, accessed July 17, 2022

CNN, "Republican Matt Bevin concedes defeat in Kentucky governor’s race," Nov. 14, 2019 

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Facebook post relies on debunked conspiracy theory for election fraud claim

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