What there is to know
- New Jersey’s gubernatorial election has turned out to be a close race between current governor and Democrat Phil Murphy and his Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli
- When the results came in on Tuesday evening, social media users began claiming the results presented by the news agency were evidence of voter fraud.
- AP News explains why this is not the case and how most publications misunderstood the real-time election reporting labels used in election data and drew the wrong conclusions about the count in Bergen County
As the results of New Jersey’s close gubernatorial race aired after Tuesday’s election, social media users began to falsely claim that news outlets’ real-time election results showed evidence. voter fraud in the state’s most populous county.
In reality, the posts misunderstood the real-time election reporting tags used in Associated Press election data and drew the wrong conclusions about the count in Bergen County. Specifically, they focused on a label on these results that said 100% of precincts reported, not understanding that the percentage did not include mail-in ballots.
Even after incumbent Democratic Governor Phil Murphy had scored a statewide victory against Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli on Wednesday night, baseless claims that Democrats infamously infused ballots into the late-night race continued to spill online by the thousands.
Here’s a closer look at the facts.
CLAIM: Online election results shown on news websites show that around midnight after New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, Ciattarelli had won Bergen County with 100% of precinct reporting. By morning, Murphy had somehow taken the lead and over 41,000 more total votes had been added, suggesting potential fraud.
FACTS: The results do not indicate fraud. Although 100% of precincts reported their in-person voting results late Tuesday evening, those precinct-level results did not include Bergen County’s mail-in ballots, according to a spokesperson. AP, whose data was used for the live elections. results on various news websites. More than 41,000 mail-in ballots were added to the tally early Wednesday morning, explaining Murphy’s pre-dawn boost.
Screenshots displaying electoral maps and charts of news organizations began spreading on social media on Wednesday morning, with users insisting the images showed evidence of wrongdoing.
“As of midnight, Bergen County (largest county) was 100% flagged…and red,” read a text overlay on a widely circulated screenshot of an Instagram story. “At 7:30 they ‘found’ more votes and it went blue?!?!”
“Forensically Audit New Jersey,” read a tweet shared thousands of times. “Something smells bad in Bergen County.”
Despite the confusion, there is a simple explanation, according to AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton: 100% precinct reporting does not mean 100% of all ballots were counted.
Governor Phil Murphy has just narrowly achieved his goal of becoming the first Democrat to claim re-election in New Jersey in 44 years, as Garden State’s gubernatorial election is expected to play out in his favor over the Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, according to The Associated Press. Reporting by Brian Thompson.
“For example, in New Jersey, mail-in ballots are generally not included in the results for individual precincts, but are instead compiled by the county and added to the results separately,” Easton said in an email. “Bergen County had advised prior to Election Day that it had received over 42,000 absentee ballots. When the county reported most of those votes early Wednesday morning, AP added them to its tally.
“Precinct reports are generally an accurate measure of in-person voting progress in precincts on Election Day, but in many cases they don’t account for early or mail-in votes,” Easton said. “In some cases, a constituency may report its vote in multiple stages during election night.”
Bergen County Division of Elections Supervisor Sabrina Taranto confirmed that 100% precinct reporting does not mean all ballots were counted. Instead, she told the AP in an email, that means “70 of Bergen County’s 70 machine voting towns were received and counted.”
“These totals do not reflect any other type of voting such as mail-in voting, provisional votes, early voting, etc.,” Taranto wrote. “This is the standard method followed by our office for every election.”
PA called the governor’s race for Murphy on Wednesday night when a batch of votes from Republican-leaning Monmouth County increased Murphy’s lead and made a victory for Ciattarelli impossible.