Have you seen that viral video of a man supposedly burning about 80 ballots marked for Donald Trump? The footage has been circulating on Twitter and Facebook over the past 48 hours and the president’s son, Eric Trump, even retweeted the video. But it’s completely fake.
The viral video, which was first debunked by CNN, appeared on social media platforms on Tuesday, though it’s still not clear who created the deceptive footage. The ballots in the video are actually sample ballots that anyone can obtain, not official ballots used in elections.
The names on the ballots indicate that they’re sample ballots from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and election officials in that city say the sheets of paper don’t include barcode markings that would be visible on proper ballots. The city released a public statement on Tuesday evening after it was made aware of the video.
“A concerned citizen shared a video with us that ostensibly shows someone burning ballots. They are NOT official ballots, they are sample ballots. See the attached freeze frame image and photo of the official ballots, which have the bar codes,” the city wrote on its website.
Whoever made the video clearly wanted to sow doubt and confusion around the electoral process during a year when President Trump has falsely claimed that mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud. The man behind the camera can be heard saying, “fuck Trump” and “you gotta do what you gotta do,” as he places the sample ballots in a plastic bag.
“Got around eighty,” the man says before putting lighter fluid on the bag and setting it on fire. He then gives a middle finger to the burning bag.
“You work at the, uh, mail... or polling place, you gotta do what you gotta do,” the anonymous man can be heard saying in an accent that’s tough to place.
“Yeah, fuck Trump,” the man says again before squirting more fluid on the fire.
The fake video was quote-tweeted by Eric Trump on Wednesday but the account that originally posted the video has been suspended. The video has been flagged as fake on Facebook, but it’s still available to watch on the social media platform.
Pro-Trump conspiracy theory websites like Gateway Pundit published the original video on Wednesday, but hedged by claiming that no one knows where the ballots came from. In fact, we do know where those sample ballots are from because we can google the names on the right side of the ballot.
For example, a quick search for “Rosemary A. Wilson” reveals she’s a member of the Virginia Beach City Council. The video is grainy since it’s been shared and reshared so many times on various social media platforms, but you can do the same with other names on the ballot, like Brandon C. Hutchins and Nadine Marie Paniccia. All three were running for Virginia Beach City Council in Tuesday’s election.
The Gateway Pundit wrote a follow-up post about the incident, noting that the account Eric Trump had retweeted had been deleted but didn’t include any comment from the City of Virginia Beach.
President Trump and his supporters are waging an information war online to cast doubt on the election, which still hasn’t been declared for either side. Joe Biden currently leads in the electoral vote count, but hasn’t secured the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Biden currently has 264 electoral votes and Trump has 214, according to Fox News. The crucial swing states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada are still tabulating their results.
Whoever burned the ballots in Virginia Beach may not be in trouble with officials who oversee elections in the state, but law enforcement still wants to speak with the man who made the video. The problem, funnily enough, is that this video likely breaks the law because it’s an uncontrolled burn near a bunch of flammable materials like dry leaves.
“Fire investigators are looking into the illegal burning,” the city wrote on its website.