- Even before polls have closed, far-right internet forums are inundated with baseless fraud claims.
- Trump has written multple posts online suggesting fraud is taking place, urging people to protest.
- The past few years of voter fraud claims has ripened the ground for similar conspiracies to spread.
Even before polls closed and many states began releasing vote counts on Tuesday, far-right users in Telegram channels and fringe forums were spreading conspiracy theories and itching to declare the midterm elections fraudulent.
Online spaces dedicated to support for former President Donald Trump or belief in QAnon are filled with people who tend to be primed to follow and propagate baseless conspiracy theories. On election day, these channels and forums lit up with false claims of election fraud — many of the users still spreading the disproven claim that Trump was cheated out of victory in the 2020 election, along with other forms of misinformation like anti-vaccine falsehoods.
A good deal of the false claims and baseless conspiracy theories circulating in far-right online spaces about Tuesday’s midterm elections surround Maricopa County in Arizona, which experienced a “technical glitch” earlier today that led to some votes not being correctly tabulated, according to CNN.
Maricopa County officials — including the chair of its board of supervisors, who is a Republican — stated that around 20% of the voting locations were experiencing issues. Around mid-afternoon county officials followed up with another statement that they had identified the issue, according to NPR, and changed the printer settings on the voting tabulators to address it.
Despite county officials saying these votes would still be counted after the polls close, a volley of far-right commentators and politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene have seized on the issue to spread baseless claims of election fraud. Some right-wing commentators with large followings have also shared videos of election day scenes in Arizona — such as officials painstakingly explaining what’s happening with the voting machines — and added suggestive descriptions implying fraud. At least one election denial group, 2020 is Nullified, has already reportedly planned election protests this evening in multiple Arizona countries.
Trump posted a string of messages on Truth Social Tuesday afternoon claiming without evidence that fraud was taking place and falsely suggested that the “same” voter fraud “as happened in 2020” was happening with these elections.
“Maricopa County in Arizona looks like a complete Voter Integrity DISASTER,” Trump wrote to his audience of 4.5 million followers. “Another big voter tabulation problem in Arizona. Sound familiar???” he wrote in another post.
Trump has also previously suggested that election fraud is happening in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and urged his followers to “Protest, Protest, Protest!” in Detroit. A judge in Michigan already dismissed a lawsuit making claims of election fraud, writing in an opinion that the baseless suit “raised a false flag of election law violations.”
Far-right spaces are inundated with non-stop election falsehoods and vows of ‘civil war’
On Telegram, numerous posts have gained traction that imply or explicitly claim that voter fraud is taking place, without providing any evidence. The far-right Telegram user BioClandestine, who became known for popularizing the false conspiracy theory that the US was developing bioweapons in Ukraine, baselessly claimed this afternoon that Maricopa County was purposely delaying the election so they could “commit voter fraud.”
Other popular Telegrammers in the far-right sphere have vaguely claimed that liberals will “bring out massive fraud” without pointing to anything in particular. The QAnon influencer Jordan Sather baselessly speculated that “plenty of fraud” could be exposed on Tuesday. The channels, which generally function as far-right echo chambers, are inundated with constant claims of election fraud.
A popular QAnon conspiracist with over 70,000 followers has repeatedly made baseless claims predicting there would be fraud committed through myriad outrageous methods.
“All assets deployed tomorrow. False flags, delayed vote count, pipe bursts, dead voters, fake ballots, electronic voting systems being rigged,” the user wrote in a post that has been viewed over 130,000 times. “Tomorrow they commit treason for the second time.”
Fringe forums for Trump supporters are similarly lit up with baseless claims and speculation about election fraud, with some users suggesting they would start a civil war if there is “no red wave and a bunch of cheating.”
A slew of baseless conspiracy theories beyond the catch-all net of “voter fraud” have also gained some traction in far-right circles, including the bizarre and unfounded claim that any voting stations with WiFi networks nearby could be involved in fraud.
Disinformation and extremism experts have long warned that election myths and falsehoods, which far-right actors and Trump propagated for years, made this midterm election season especially vulnerable to the spread of election-related lies. The vote has also taken place amid the backdrop of political violence, just two weeks after a conspiracy theorist attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer and fractured his skull while allegedly looking for Pelosi.