A concerted effort is underway by the Trump campaign, right-wing media outlets and leading conservative figures on Election Day to spread misinformation that Democrats are mounting a widespread effort to “steal the election” in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania.
The campaign began early on Tuesday morning, when Will Chamberlain, editor-in-chief of the right-wing outlet Human Events, shared a video showing a poll worker being wrongfully barred from entering a polling center in Philadelphia.
While the poll watcher was initially blocked incorrectly from entering the polling station, the error was subsequently rectified. The confusion occurred because the official who blocked the watcher from entering wasn’t aware that poll watchers can roam around the city and visit multiple polling stations.
The video was posted on Twitter at 6:19 a.m. and currently has over 300 million impressions on Twitter alone, according to data from the Election Integrity Project, a coalition of research groups tracking disinformation online during the election.
While Chamberlain’s tweet has been shared tens of thousands of times, its reach has been boosted dramatically by others falsely claiming it was evidence of a wider Democratic effort at voter fraud.
The video was shared by right-wing influencers including Steve Bannon, Donald Trump Jr., Diamond and Silk, and James Woods, as well as influential right-wing media outlets including Breitbart and The Gateway Pundit.
Rush Limbaugh hyped the video and falsely claimed it was evidence of a wider campaign against Republican poll-watchers via his nationally syndicated radio show and on Fox News.
It was also amplified by NAEBC, a website posing as an American news site that has been linked to the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency.
Mike Roman, the Trump campaign’s national Election Day operations director, said: “DEMOCRAT ELECTION OFFICIALS BANNING TRUMP POLL WATCHERS IN PHILLY. This is happening all over the City. The steal is on!”
Kevin Feeley, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia City Commissioners, which run the city’s elections, told ProPublica that Roman’s allegation was just not true.
“Nonsense,” Feeley said. “That’s not happening.
This wasn’t the only spurious claim Republicans were making about voting in Pennsylvania on social media.
Roman, who has a history of alleging voter fraud in the state, followed up sharing Chamberlain’s video by posting a video that claimed to show someone “ballot stuffing” again in Philadelphia. This time Roman said: “Literally STUFFING the ballot box in Philly! You are only allowed to deliver YOUR OWN ballot to a drop box!! Trying to STEAL THE ELECTION in broad daylight.”
Hours after Roman posted the video, Twitter labeled the tweet as “disputed” and blocked anyone from sharing, liking or commenting on it.
Other posts falsely claimed that voters in Philadelphia are being split into lines based on their support for specific parties and that electioneering in the form of Democrat signage outside polling centers was breaching election rules.
The Election Integrity Project said the posts on social media are “designed to foster a general sense of distrust of Pennsylvania results rather than any specific allegation.”