For weeks now, Donald Trump has been telling his supporters that next week’s US presidential election will be “rigged” against him. His claims have even gone so far as to inspire one woman in Iowa to be arrested on felony charges for voting twice in the fear that her first vote would be “changed to Hillary,” according to Iowa Public Radio. The clamour for greater oversight into the election process and any evidence of misconduct is growing.
On October 12, a YouTube user called “Tea Partier” posted a video titled “Democrats Busted On Camera Stuffing Ballot Boxes”. The full video features four soundless, separate clips, each showing people ramming paper into election boxes as the name of a US state is super-imposed on the footage. Two of the videos take place in halls decorated in red, white and blue. The others are clearly identifiable as voting stations.
The only problem? They are all from Russia.
“Tea Partier” regularly posts political news videos relating to the US election, social issues and world events, but doesn’t appear to have any official ties to the Tea Party movement. However, by taking screenshots from key moments in each of the clips and uploading them to Yandex images and Google images, we can track down the original versions of each of the featured clips.
Clip 1 – “Illinois”
The earliest version of this clip we could find was uploaded to YouTube in May 2012, allegedly showing evidence of fraud at the Russian presidential elections in March 2012. The clip was also used to allege voter fraud during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. But evidence of “Democrats Stuffing ballot boxes”, it is not.
Clip 2 – “Pennsylvania”
The second clip, marked in the “Democrats” video as “Pennsylvania”, has a clear timestamp in the top-left hand corner showing the date as “18.09.16”, the date of this year’s Russian presidential election. The clip itself was featured in reporting by The Independent, among others, of alleged voter fraud during the Russian elections.
Clip 3 – “Pennsylvania”
This clip also features the “18.09.16” timestamp, and a reverse image search of the relevant screenshots turns up a video uploaded the same day alleged to be from Rostov, Russia. The Russian text in the video play translates as “commission” and “box for vote IAOD”,
Clip 4 – “Arizona”
While this footage has no timestamp or identifiable decorations, a reverse image search of screenshots finds a video posted to YouTube the day after the Russian election in September, titled “That’s the way elections are held in Russia”. The text in the video itself says “We are for clean elections!” and the women can clearly be heard speaking Russian.
First Draft will be joining ProPublica and other newsrooms around the US in covering issues of voter disenfranchisement around the US presidential election next week. You can keep up to date with the project over at ProPublica, or by following Electionland on Twitter.