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The claim: 70% of voters who showed up to some California polling locations were told they had already voted
In the wake of the recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, conservative personalities have spread unfounded claims of voter fraud and attempted to cast doubt on the results.
The recall petition was brought forth in February 2020, and organizers of the effort aimed to remove Newson, a Democrat, based on his stance on issues like taxes and immigration. However, Newsom was declared the winner on Sept. 14 shortly after polls closed, with about 63% voting against the recall.
There has been no evidence of widespread fraud, and other major candidates in the race have acknowledged Newsom’s win. But online, some people are suggesting election fraud, claiming 70% of voters were told they already voted when they went to cast their ballot.
The claim traces back to a Sept. 13, Newsmax interview, in which a man named Emon Afshar alleged an election worker told him 70% of voters experienced the issue. In the days following, his claim was shared widely on social media.
“We saw lots of fraud. Certain polling locations reported 70% of people walking in had already voted!” read a since-deleted Sept. 15 Instagram post that accumulated more than 3,000 likes within a day.
Some social media users shared a screenshot of a headline that says, “California Recall Election Woodland Hills Polling Location ‘70% of Voters Told They Already Voted.’”
But the claim is false. While two polling locations in California experienced a technical error, the volume of people affected by the glitch is nowhere near the number cited by Afshar and the social media posts. And no voters were prevented from voting because of it.
“The 70% reference is incorrect and unsubstantiated – location-specific or broadly,” said Jenna Dresner, a spokesperson for the California secretary of state’s office.
Afshar and the posters did not return a request for comment.
Technical issues at polling stations
In Los Angeles' Woodland Hills neighborhood, voters at El Camino Real Charter High School Vote Center and the Disabled American Veterans 73 Vote Center experienced a glitch at check-in on Sept. 11, causing some voters to be told they had already participated in the election, but the voting never stopped.
The system error prompted the false claims that some people were prevented from voting, however, those who experienced the issue were given a provisional ballot, which is used when people have a problem while voting in person.
“Provisional ballots were provided to all voters who experienced this issue at a vote center to ensure no one was turned away from voting,” Dresner said via email. A “remediation deployment plan was quickly put in place to swap all impacted equipment.”
In total, the two affected polling locations processed 103 provisional ballots, 56 at one and 47 at the other, while other voters chose to go to an alternate location, according to Dresner. She said issues were identified with 91 electronic poll book devices out of 1,510 deployed for the election. They were the result of an error in the loading sequence by their vendor.
Voters who experienced this issue early yesterday were offered provisional ballots – the failsafe option to ensure no one is turned away from voting. After troubleshooting, the issue was resolved and the check-in equipment at the location was replaced. Voting has continued.
— Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (@LACountyRRCC) September 12, 2021
Los Angeles County Registrar Office spokesman Mike Sanchez also said the 70% figure is incorrect, and that the issue was "quickly resolved and voting was continuous.”
"Provisional ballots were verified and included in the election night tally," Sanchez said via email.
Some voters told local news outlet KTLA5 they were suspicious because many of those affected by the technical issue were self-identified Republicans, but the election issue could have affected any voter. Dresner said it was an "isolated incident."
As of Sept. 20, more than 11million votes have been reported. Counties have 30 days after the election to complete the official canvass, per The New York Times.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that 70% of voters who showed up to some California polling locations were told they had already voted. While voters at two polling locations were told they had already participated in the election, the issue was quickly resolved and voters were given provisional ballots. A total of 103 provisional ballots were processed in total due to the glitch, and the California secretary of state's office said the 70% figure is incorrect.
Our fact-check sources:
Jenna Dresner, Sept. 15, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Mike Sanchez, Sept. 16, Email exchange with USA TODAY
CBS Los Angeles, Sept. 13, Some In-Person Voting Problems Reported in LA, Ventura Counties
USA TODAY, Nov. 7, 2020, What is a provisional ballot? Special ballots will help determine who is the next president?
The New York Times, Sept. 20, California Recall Election Results
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Posts make false claim about California recall voting