CLAIM: Video shows masked man at polling site "cheating" in front of cameras in Philadelphia.
THE FACTS: The video shows a poll worker in Madison, Wisconsin, on Tuesday. He was initialing ballots to be handed out to voters, a standard procedure mandated by state law, according to the county clerk.
Social media users on Election Day distorted a clip of the Madison poll worker doing his job to falsely claim it showed election fraud in Philadelphia. The video, which aired on Fox News on Tuesday, shows a man wearing a cloth face mask flipping through ballots and writing on them.
"Masked man cheating in front of the cameras on the mainstream media," read a widely shared tweet with the video. But the original footage shows the video was filmed in Madison, not Pennsylvania. Immediately before Fox News showed the clip in Madison, the network showed the exterior of Philadelphia's East Passyunk Community Center with a graphic labeling that location. The broadcast then showed the clip of the poll worker and changed the location in the label to Madison. Social media versions of the video cropped out the location.
A reverse-image search of the building's interior revealed that the clip was filmed at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, which served as a polling location for Tuesday's election. Scott McDonell, the Dane County clerk, said the man is a poll worker, and the video shows him initialing ballots before they were handed out to voters. He was also circling the ward in which the ballots were issued. It's part of the process of preparing the ballots for voters, McDonell said. Another poll worker also initialed the ballots before they were handed to voters.
"You need to have those signatures to show that two people saw the blank ballot and handed it to the voter," McDonell said. "This is a standard operating procedure. It's done in public so that anyone can watch it. It's mandated by state law. It's a check and balance on the system." Barry Burden, a University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor and the director of the Elections Research Project, agreed that the video showed standard procedures for poll workers in Madison. Wisconsin election law explains that at polling places with paper ballots, two inspectors "shall write their initials on the back of each ballot and deliver to each elector as he or she enters the voting booth."
Philadelphia's city commissioner on Twitter debunked the false claims that the video showed a polling site in his city. Nick Custodio, deputy commissioner with Philadelphia's elections board, told the AP that Philadelphia does not use paper voting booths such as those shown in the video, and that the "I voted" stickers in the video also do not match those used in Philadelphia.
— Associated Press writers Arijeta Lajka and Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report with additional reporting from Amy Forliti in Minneapolis and Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia.