Ballot mules. Poll watch parties. Groomers.
These topics are now among the most dominant divisive and misleading narratives online about November’s midterm elections, according to researchers and data analytics companies. On Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Truth Social and other social media sites, some of these narratives have surged in recent months, often accompanied by angry and threatening rhetoric.
The effects of these inflammatory online discussions are being felt in the real world, election officials and voting rights groups said. Voters have flooded some local election offices with misinformed questions about supposedly rigged voting machines, while some people appear befuddled about what pens to use on ballots and whether mail-in ballots are still legal, they said.
“Our voters are angry and confused,” Lisa Marra, elections director in Cochise County, Ariz., told a House committee last month. “They simply don’t know what to believe.”
The most prevalent of these narratives fall into three main categories: continued falsehoods about rampant election fraud; threats of violence and citizen policing of elections; and divisive posts on health and social policies that have become central to political campaigns. Here’s what to know about them.