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Fact check: Online rumor of voter fraud scheme using women’s maiden names is baseless

In the days after major media outlets declared Democratic challenger Joe Biden President-elect of the United States, posts on social media claimed, without evidence, that there had been a voter fraud scheme involving the use of women’s maiden names to cast illegal ballots. Alleging widespread voter fraud, the online rumors, dubbed #MaidenGate, sought to sow distrust in the electoral process and delegitimize election results. These claims are baseless: no such incidents have been reported by authorities in key battleground states. In addition, voting safeguards implemented across the country make such a scheme nearly impossible to orchestrate.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples of posts making this claim can be found here and here . Without providing any evidence, one Facebook user alleged on Nov. 10 here that “there are thousands upon thousands of women who are finding out that someone has fraudulently registered and voted under their maiden names! How many different fraud schemes did they have???” 

Several posts link to a page on the website “American Greatness” ( here ). Without providing a last name, the article credits someone named “Lauren who discovered her mother was such a victim” and hyperlinks to a now suspended Twitter account ( twitter.com/SomeBitchIKnow ). It also includes a link to the website “Maidengate.com,” which redirects to a Google doc ( here ) with links to check voter registration and ballot status for every state.  

While most iterations of the claim did not specify where this alleged scheme had taken place, some posts ( here , here ) urge voters in Oakland County, MI., Maricopa County, AZ, Fulton County, GA, and Allegheny County, PA “especially” –all decisive counties in key battleground states—to check whether ballots were cast using their maiden names.  

MICHIGAN

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office published its own fact check on how security protections prevent voting in another person’s name here . It states that Michigan absentee ballots “are not counted until a voter has twice provided signatures matching the one on file with their local election clerk” and that “upon arriving at a polling place, voters are asked to provide photo ID or sign an affidavit confirming their identity and eligibility to vote.” 

“Voting in another person’s name – regardless of if it is the other person’s maiden name or the person has moved – is illegal and any voter with actual evidence of such an act should report it immediately, in writing, to law enforcement so that it can be investigated and referred for prosecution,” the Secretary’s website says. It also clarifies that “actual occurrences of voter fraud are exceedingly rare.”

Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown ( here ) told Reuters via phone that her office had received no reports of this scheme happening. 

ARIZONA

When asked about the #MaidenGate claims, Diana Solorio, the public information officer for the Maricopa County Recorder (here), clarified to Reuters via email that Arizona law “requires that the Elections Department check the voter registration record against vital records and government systems prior to mailing a ballot to a voter.  These checks verify the registration status of the voter and ensures we send the correct ballot to the correct voter.”  

On Nov. 11, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, negated claims of election fraud in his state, stating that “if indeed there was some great conspiracy" to steal votes from Republicans, “it apparently didn't work” (here).  

In an interview with Fox Business (here), Brnovich said that Arizona voters had gone for Democrats in the presidential and U.S. Senate races but voted for Republicans further down the ballot. 

According to reports filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office on Nov. 12 (here), over half of the state’s counties have completed post-election audits and found either no discrepancies or negligible issues that do not affect the election results (here). 

GEORGIA

Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said on Nov. 11 there was no sign yet of widespread fraud in his state’s vote count, where President-elect Joe Biden currently has a 14,000 vote lead over President Donald Trump (here).  

In an interview with CNN, Raffensperger said he has ordered a hand recount because of the closeness of the vote count, but he believed votes had so far been tallied accurately. Biden’s current lead, with nearly all votes counted, is 0.3%.

Asked about voter fraud, the secretary said: “We have ongoing investigations but we have not seen something widespread.” He added there was no evidence yet of any discrepancies large enough that could reverse Biden’s lead.

The Fulton County Clerk specifically did not respond to Reuters request for comment as of this article’s publication.

PENNSYLVANIA

When asked about the #MaidenGate theory, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State told Reuters via email that “there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in this election.”

The Allegheny County Elections Division specifically did not respond to Reuters request for comment as of this article’s publication.

DIFFICULTIES OF EXECUTING THIS SCHEME

M.V. Hood III, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia who has conducted research on election fraud (here), told Reuters via phone that successfully carrying out kind of scheme would be “near to impossible.” 

Hood said that doing so “would have to be a two-step fraud process” in which someone first registered in someone else’s name and then illegally cast a ballot in that person’s name. Even getting past the first step would require information provided on that person’s driver’s license or Social Security card.

“That’s just a whole lot of work to go through to even cast one fraudulent ballot,” he said.

Myrna Perez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections program at NYU Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice ( here ), explained to Reuters via phone that in order to be successful, such a fraudster would have to “know somebody’s birth name, know that somebody got married, know whether somebody changed their name or not, know whether registration records reflect that change or not,” and would need “information from their driver’s license or the Social Security administration.”  

According to Perez, the fraudster would then “have to assume they guessed right and provide an address” before trying to “escape the duplication searches that the states do.” Then, “depending on the state, they would have to get past photo ID laws.”

Hood said that this kind of fraud would be even harder to accomplish in states like Arizona ( here ), Georgia ( dds.georgia.gov/voter-id ) and Michigan ( here ) which require voters to provide photo identification at the polls. Provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a state-by-state guide to voter identification requirements is available here . 

But even in states that do not require photo ID, like Pennsylvania, unless you are voting for the first time at your polling place ( here ), longstanding safeguards in the registration and voting process render this claim “outlandish” and “crazy,” according to Hood.  

Perez said that registering and voting with a stolen identity “requires luck going their way a bunch more times than it will.”

A Reuters explainer on mail-in voter fraud is visible here, and fact check explaining obstacles to mail-in voter fraud is visible here . 

VERDICT

False. The is no evidence of a fraud scheme involving the use of women’s maiden names to cast fraudulent ballots. This kind of scheme would be near-impossible to execute.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here . 

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