As President Trump and various politicians pushed unfounded claims about voter fraud during a mandatory recount of Florida’s U.S. Senate election results in November 2018, an army of internet trolls started spreading the rumor that 53,000 dead people turned up on the state’s voter rolls:
One of the most popular tweets pushing this rumor issued from the account “Red Nation Rising” and insinuated some of the dead people had “voted” in the election. The Facebook page “Donald Trump Is Our President” (@the45thpresident) went further and implied that those dead voters were Democrats:
These social media posts did not link to a recent article concerning the recount taking place in Florida in November 2018, but rather to a 6-year-old story about the impact of a new (and controversial) voter-related law which was originally published by Fox News back in 2012:
The questions about voter eligibility surface as the state continues its months-long efforts to scrub the rolls, including asking supervisors to remove more than 53,000 dead people discovered by comparing voter rolls to federal Social Security files. This was the first time the state checked the files. It was allowed under a controversial election law that passed the GOP-controlled Legislature last year.
This story did not claim that any of the dead people found on Florida voter rolls in 2012 had actually voted in the election. Furthermore, election officials questioned the methodology that was used in order to generate the list of people to be purged from the voter rolls:
On that front, it’s begun a new effort. Florida’s top elections officials recently sent to the counties a list of 53,000 people believed to be dead who should be removed from the voter rolls.
That’s something county elections officials do routinely, using death notices. Susan Bucher, the supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County, says she held off sending letters to people identified as potential noncitizens because she had questions about the state’s methodology. With that experience in mind, she’s leery about the new list as well.
“In the situation with the deceased persons, we have no evidence — they just told us about it,” she says. “So I’d like to see some documentation so that I can do some research to make sure that that’s not faulty also.”
This was the second time that an outdated and out-of-context article about Florida’s voter rolls in 2012 went viral on social media during the November 2018 recount. Donald Trump Jr. helped spread another false rumor when he shared an article from 2012 to back up his claim that “Nearly 200,000 Florida Voters May Not Be Citizens”:
Trump Jr. did not mention that the article he was sharing was several years old when he posted it on Twitter, nor did he include the Editor’s Note at the top of the article noting the actual figure of non-citizen registrants ultimately discovered and removed from Florida voting rolls was a mere 85:
The initial list of 180,000 names was whittled to 2,625, according to the Florida Department of State. The state then checked a federal database and stated it found 207 noncitizens on the rolls (not necessarily voting but on the rolls). That list was sent to county election supervisors to check and it also turned out to contain errors. An Aug. 1, 2012, state elections document showed only 85 noncitizens were ultimately removed from the rolls out of a total of about 12 million voters at that time.