Updated: Nov. 5, 4:12 p.m. EST
A widely circulated foreboding message purporting to warn supporters of President Obama of an electronic voting “trick” that could exclude their vote for the president if they select only the “All Democrats” option has been debunked by the South Carolina branch of the NAACP. Still, it continues to make the rounds on Facebook and email, spreading confusion that some worry could lead voters in states that allow straight-ticket voting to remove their vote for the office of the president.
“PLEASE PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THIS! In the event that you are planning to vote democrat on Nov. 6, when you go into the voting booths, DO NOT SELECT THE BUTTON “all democrats” first because Barack Obama will be excluded from the vote,” a screenshot of a Facebook status attached to one email reads. It goes on to instruct voters to select “Barack Obama” first and then “all democrats” and ends with “People are not being told this information because they are trying every trick in the book.”
Not true, says the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. The organization has issued a warning to voters: “If a South Carolina voter chooses the straight party option first on our voting machines, the selection box for all candidates of the intended political party will automatically be checked, including the presidential candidate.”
The main concern raised by the message is that voters confused by the instructions may touch their presidential selection a second time, which would actually remove their vote for that office, the NAACP told WCBD-TV Charleston in October. Thus, the organization recommends that each voter review all of his or her selections made on the voting machine before pressing the final button to confirm the ballot and asks that anyone who has forwarded the misleading message to others follow up with a message of caution about the advice.
South Carolina NAACP President Lonnie Randolph says that he’s not surprised that the misleading information seems to targets the types of ballots used by South Carolina voters. He attributes the effort to a long history of hostility toward African-American political power in his own state that dates back to Reconstruction.
He doesn’t know who’s behind it, but he believes that it has already caused confusion, particularly among the state’s more vulnerable citizens. “That’s why we had a press conference. So many people in South Carolina already feel threatened. We have a lot of first-time voters in this election, and the machines are not the simplest thing to deal with. Folks will need some assistance, particularly elderly people,” he said.
If this is, in fact, a hoax meant to confuse voters or suppress the votes of Democrats, it’s unfortunately nothing new. Just last month, Think Progress warned of misinformation campaigns, including those telling voters that they can vote by phone, that they are at risk of being purged from the rolls, that they must show identification to vote and more.
Randolph told The Root that South Carolina has seen other forms of intimidation and misleading information this election cycle, including employers threatening their employees with layoffs, reduced house, and loss of health insurance if Mitt Romney is not elected, as well as recent e-mails attempting to convince voters that, as result of Hurricane Sandy, the election date has been moved.