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Snohomish County election officials detail voting process to combat spread of misinformation

From the minute someone drops off their ballot, it is securely held and handled. Every step is photographed and election workers must sign to affirm nothing is awry.

EVERETT, Wash. — Election officials in Snohomish County are working to stop the spread of misinformation.

The latest piece of misinformation spreading on Instagram claims that by mailing a ballot early it allows so-called "bad actors" to know how many votes they need to manufacture to rig an election.

It's a claim that is patently false.

From the minute someone drops their ballot in the box, it is securely held and handled. Every step is photographed and election workers must sign to affirm nothing is awry.

Inside the Snohomish County's elections headquarters, tabulation machines are kept inside locked steel cages that require two people to open. Anyone who does so must register their name in a field log. Cameras are everywhere.

But still, misinformation persists.

The post currently circulating advises voters not to mail their ballots.

"It gives the bad guys a chance to know how many ballots they need to make," the Washington state woman said in the post. 

The video has been flagged on Instagram for containing partly-false information.

It made its way to the desk of Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell who wants to set the record straight.

"The truth is this is bad advice and bad information," Fell said.

While workers check signatures and do some preliminary processing of ballots, no votes are counted until 8 p.m. on Election Day -- meaning there is no way for anyone to know who is winning or losing prior to that time and no way to manufacture votes.

The post also tells people to wait until Election Day itself to drop off ballots -- something Fell said simply slows the whole process down.

"What that means for the voter is we don't have as robust results on the night of the election," Fell explains. "They'll have to wait for several days for ballots to be counted."

There is so much misinformation circulating right now that the Secretary of State's office had to launch a campaign to remind people that the elections are secure.

"We do an entire data integrity program to prevent voter fraud," says Acting Elections Director Stuart Holmes. "We're removing dead people from the rolls. We're removing people who have moved and are registered in another state. We're constantly updating the voter rolls. We do everything we can do."

Holmes said the amount of voter fraud in the last election was less than 1%.

Fell suggests that anyone who still has doubts about the security of this election register as an official observer.

"They can see the whole vote counting process from start to finish," he said.

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