The claim: 500,000 ballots in Virginia and 200,000 ballots in Nevada were sent to dead people, pets
As some states have expanded mail-in voting ahead of the presidential election due to the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to discredit voting by mail are spreading rapidly on social media.
A widely shared post on Facebook claims that hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots in Virginia and Nevada were found under the names of dead people and pets.
“Why isn’t anyone mentioning over 500,000 mail in ballots found in Virginia and 200,000 in Nevada with dead peoples names and pets,” reads a Facebook post from last month that has been shared over 23,000 times.
USA TODAY reached out to the user for comment.
There were recently problems with 500,000 absentee ballot applications in Virginia mailed by a third-party group. However, there is no evidence ballots were sent to deceased voters or pets.
Users may have also misinterpreted President Donald Trump’s remarks on Aug. 10 when he told reporters during a briefing “half a million incorrect ballot applications sent all over the state of Virginia to many people that weren’t living. They had some sent to pets — dogs."
Ballot application issues in Virginia
The Center for Voter Information, a nonprofit, nonpartisan partner organization to the Voter Participation Center, sent absentee ballot applications to Virginia voters in August. Of the 2.2 million applications mailed, 500,000 had return envelopes directed to wrong election offices.
Tom Lopach, CEO and president of the Center for Voter Information, told USA TODAY in a statement that the organization is mailing only vote-by-mail applications and not actual ballots.
“We are not aware of any of our ballot applications going to pets or deceased people, as some have alleged, since our mailing list is made up of registered voters on record with the state,” Lopach said.
Why were there errors?
“Approximately half a million applications sent to eligible voters in Virginia included incorrect information, and we are working diligently to address the issues,” the organization said in a statement, adding it was working with local election officials in Virginia to redirect the applications to proper locations.
Jonathan Shapiro, president and CEO of Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Co., printing vendors for the Center for Voter Information said the “mistake occurred because we incorrectly aligned a spreadsheet that matched the voter with their local election office” and that the spreadsheet was not sent to the Center for Voter Information for review.
Virginia and Nevada respond
Virginia Department of Elections spokeswoman Andrea Gaines told USA TODAY in an email that absentee ballots are only sent to registered voters upon request. The state started mailing ballots on Sept. 18, or 45 days before the election.
Virginia election officials also said in a statement they were aware of the situation and that the “Virginia Department of Elections has no affiliation with this group nor coordinates with any third-party groups on campaign efforts.”
How to vote by mail: 2020 presidential voter’s guide to absentee voting
Wayne Thorley, Nevada’s deputy secretary of state for elections, told the Associated Press that “the claim that 200,000 ballots went to dead people is not true” and “only registered voters are eligible to receive a ballot in Nevada, and pets can’t be registered voters, so pets cannot get a ballot.”
Thorley added that election officials receive daily updates and remove deceased voters from the rolls and that the 200,000 figure in the post could be mistakenly referencing ballots that were returned in June.
Ahead of the June 9 primary election in Clark County, the largest county in Nevada, 223,000 mailed ballots were returned as undeliverable, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Dan Kullin, of the Clark County Office of Public Information, told the Associated Press that those ballots were returned to the election department because voters no longer lived at the address initially provided when they registered to vote.
Nevada will begin mailing ballots on Oct. 7, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
Our ruling: False
The claim that hundreds of thousands of ballots were sent to dead people and pets in Virginia and Nevada is FALSE, based on our research. About 500,000 voters in Virginia were sent vote-by-mail applications, not an actual ballot, that included incorrect return addresses. In Nevada, ballots for the primary election were returned due to a change of address. Election officials have not mailed absentee ballots in Nevada. Virginia started mailing absentee ballots on Sept. 18.
Our fact-check sources:
Center for Voter Information, Aug. 6, Virginia Statement
Center for Voter Information, Aug. 7, A Statement from Our Printer
Tom Lopach email statement to USA TODAY
Virginia Department of Elections, Aug. 6, VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF ELECTIONS’ STATEMENT CONCERNING THIRD PARTY MAILINGS
Andrea Gaines email to USA TODAY
Las Vegas Review-Journal, Aug. 14, More than 223K mailed ballots returned undelivered in primary
Associated Press, Sept. 3, False claims circulate about mail-in-ballots in Virginia and Nevada
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Nevada, Virginia ballots weren't sent to dead people, pets