Skip Navigation

March election rumor: found ballot narrative

Findings for March 2024 with data on messaging to counter election rumors.

Published: March 26, 2024

Fact: Election officials have many safeguards in place to ensure only legitimate ballots are included in election results.

Ballots are not just sent to anyone; each ballot is linked to one voter to ensure that no one submits more than one ballot. Election officials use “chain of custody” procedures to track the transfer of both mail and in-person ballots from one election worker to the next and prevent any interference with sensitive materials. While practices vary by jurisdiction depending on what is most secure for their community and system, all states allow for observation of Election Day procedures. Nearly all states allow representatives from political parties to observe ballots being counted. Election officials also clean the voter rolls on a regular basis.

When errors do occur, a robust system of checks and balances exists to catch and remedy them. Just like pilots use preflight checklists to ensure the safety of each flight, checklists give election officials confidence that best practices have been followed. 

Rumor: Illegitimate ballots are counted in election results. 

Despite running the most secure election in US history in 2020, election officials have been targeted by a campaign to undermine faith in results since then. False allegations – often based on manipulated or deliberately misconstrued videocontent – that election officials fraudulently fill out ballots, hide and then “find” them have proliferated online. 

We worked with Swayable, a research platform that measures content effectiveness, to determine what messages helped voters best understand the facts. 

Messages studied:

  • Election officials have a system of checks and balances to prevent ballot tampering.
  • Just like any other high stakes job, election officials use security checklists to catch and prevent ballot tampering. 
  • Election officials have multiple systems in place to prevent ballot tampering.
  • Election officials maintain strict chain of custody procedures to prevent ballot tampering.
  • Election officials individually trace and track every ballot sent out, returned, and counted to prevent ballot tampering.
  • Bipartisan teams oversee every critical step of the election process to prevent ballot tampering.

The first message was found to be most effective in communicating the facts, though differences exist by region and demographic group. See Swayable’s dashboard to examine the results in greater detail.