Elections officials in Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss a viral video alleging that an election worker attempted to tamper with a mailed-in ballot.
A thorough investigation revealed no evidence of fraud or misconduct, Montgomery County officials said, but they’re concerned that the video may have spread some damaging misinformation.
“Something like this just feeds into people who believe mail-in voting is fraudulent,” said the county’s elections board chair, Jim Shalleck, a Republican appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). “It’s very unfortunate.”
Elections officials in the liberal suburb of 1 million were alerted Tuesday afternoon to the video, which was posted on YouTube by a user who says they took it off 4chan, an online message board often used by provocative trolls.
The six-minute video, which had been viewed more than 80,000 times as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, starts with a brief clip taken from Yahoo Finance’s Facebook live feed of the county’s ongoing canvass of mailed ballots at Plum Gar Community Recreation Center in Germantown.
The clip shows a male election worker sorting through ballots; he briefly looks around the room before picking up a pen and leaning over the ballot. In bold text, the video suggests that the worker is committing election fraud.
“All this looks very, very suspicious,” the unnamed narrator says.
“It’s not Republicans or conservatives that do this sort of thing,” the narrator says later in the video, urging viewers to share the video “far and wide.”
An email sent to the address linked to the account that posted the video was not answered Wednesday evening. The Washington Post is not linking to the video because it was unable to confirm the poster’s identity or verify the claims.
Kevin Karpinski, counsel for Montgomery County’s elections board, told board members on Wednesday the allegation of misconduct is unfounded. Karpinski said he interviewed the canvass worker shown in the clip, spoke to other volunteers who were working at the time and reviewed every ballot that the worker had helped to sort.
“I find no evidence whatsoever, any sort of attempt of voter fraud,” he said.
In actuality, Karpinski said, what the clip captured was the canvass worker darkening an oval that had been filled in too lightly, to ensure that it would be picked up by the ballot scanners. Karpinski said that protocol has been in place for election workers since he started working for the elections board in 2003 and is designed to ensure that as many eligible ballots as possible are counted.