There’s Nothing ‘Mysterious’ About California’s Mail-In Voting System, Despite False Facebook Claim

By Chris Nichols,
November 4, 2020


A provocative but unfounded post from conservative commentator Tomi Lahren has gone viral on Facebook suggesting key states in the presidential race are starting to "flip blue" due to a fraudulent mail-in voting system such as the one used in California. 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s effort to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about PolitiFact California’s partnership with Facebook.) It received more than 700,000 views and 25,000 likes on the platform by early Wednesday afternoon.

Facebook added a warning label at the bottom of the post citing the trustworthiness of voting by mail.

With the nation’s focus on the still-undetermined presidential race, we set out to fact check Lahren’s claim.

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"Voting-by-mail has been popular in red, blue, and purple states for years. It’s a secure and transparent process. Vote counting is open to the public and campaigns to view," Mahood wrote. 

He added there’s been no indication of any large-scale fraud tied to mail-in voting during the current election.

For longtime California voters, there’s nothing "mysterious" about mail-in ballots. Voters of all political stripes have used them safely and securely for decades to help both Democrats and Republicans win. 

The process — traditionally called absentee voting and now more commonly called mail-in voting or vote-by-mail — has been allowed for anyone who’s registered, and for any reason, since 1979, according to the California Voter Foundation. A record 72% of votes cast in the California primary were by mail, a figure that’s expected to be surpassed once all the state’s general election ballots are counted in the weeks ahead. 

Mail-in ballots, in fact, were instrumental in the May special election victory by Republican Rep. Mike Garcia in northern Los Angeles County, undercutting the repeated claim by President Donald Trump that they favor Democrats and lead to corruption. 

Election experts, along with state and county election officials and numerous studies have all rejected claims that mail-in ballots lead to widespread fraud. The studies include a 5-year investigation by the George W. Bush administration that turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections. 

There have been cases of voters trying to cheat using mail-in ballots, but experts say it’s not systemic. When it happens, it gets caught. 

"Election fraud of all sorts is rare. There is a slightly less rare instance of voter fraud by absentee balloting," Charles Stewart, co-director of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, which analyzes election systems, told us in June. "There are greater temptations and opportunities. Nonetheless, they are rare." (Full Story)