A false claim circulating on social media alleges that mail-in ballots already filled out with votes for Democrats, including Joe Biden, were sent to voters in a New York City borough. A spokesperson for the New York City Board of Elections told us the ballot that triggered the allegation was the result of a voter’s error.
The contretemps began on Oct. 29 with a tweet by Jake Novak, who describes himself on Twitter as a freelance editorial columnist for CNBC.com. Novak said residents of Queens Village, a section of Queens Borough in New York City, “are receiving pre-filled out ballots for Joe Biden and being told to just send them back to the Board of Elections. This is blatantly ILLEGAL.” Twitter tagged the claim as “disputed.”
BREAKING NEWS: Several Queens Village (NY) residents are receiving pre-filled out ballots for Joe Biden and being told to just send them back to the Board of Elections. This is blatantly ILLEGAL pic.twitter.com/WuEozBu7XY
— Jake Novak (@jakejakeny) October 29, 2020
Novak later posted a video on Twitter in which he displays a ballot that he claims arrived entirely filled-in and another in which he elaborates on what he believes took place. The latter tweet is no longer available.
Among other things, Novak said the circles in the ballot are filled in so perfectly that no human being could have done them and they could only have been done by a machine.
Novak’s original tweet was retweeted on Oct. 30 by Eric Trump, one of President Donald Trump’s sons. The president has repeatedly and falsely claimed that vote fraud is widespread because of mail-in ballots.
What is going on in New York? https://t.co/qS0ibeSLCS
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) October 30, 2020
The New York City Board of Elections disputed Novak’s allegation in a pair of tweets on Oct. 30. In one tweet, the board challenged the notion that the ballot brandished by Novak had not been filled out by hand. In the other, the board said it had tracked down the voter who had received the mail-in ballot and the voter had in fact received a blank ballot.
This is the height of irresponsibility to continue to make these false claims. We have communicated directly with the voter in question, who received a BLANK absentee ballot. This is simply untrue!
— NYCBoardOfElections (@BOENYC) October 30, 2020
In one of his videos, Novak said he had been in touch with a Queens Village resident who had received the filled-in ballot. He said the ballot had been addressed to someone who hadn’t lived at the address for eight months. Novak said his tipster didn’t want to be identified because he had voted for past Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton but this time planned to vote for Trump, rather than Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
In his original tweet, Novak said “residents” had been receiving filled-in ballots but he backed away from the plural in the video. While saying the way the ballot he had seen was filled in suggested it was “mass produced,” he said he did not know for sure that others had received filled-in ballots.
Novak said he suspected Democrats were behind the pre-marked ballot but didn’t know for sure and was continuing to investigate.
Novak, who also lists himself on Twitter as the “creator of @Varneyco on @FOXBusiness” and a former “Executive Producer of the #KudlowReport,” said he wouldn’t provide the identity of his tipster to other news outlets because he didn’t want to give away his story. (“The Kudlow Report” was a CNBC program hosted by Larry Kudlow, now director of Trump’s National Economic Council.)
We asked Novak to put us in touch with the person or persons who had received filled-in ballots and for elaboration on why he thought the ballot could not have been filled in by a person. He did not do so.
But according to the New York City Board of Elections, there is a simple explanation for what happened, and it doesn’t involve anything nefarious. We reached Valerie Vazquez-Diaz, the board’s director of communications and public affairs, and she described what had happened in a telephone interview.
In Novak’s video of the ballot, the voter ID number is clear. According to Vazquez-Diaz, election officials tracked down the voter who had requested the absentee ballot in California. The voter reported receiving a blank ballot, filling it out and depositing it at a mail box in the Golden State.
The problem arose because the voter put the ballot into the oath envelope, which is supposed to go inside an outer envelope to be mailed to election officials. But the voter instead placed the oath envelope into the mail box. The only address on the oath envelope is the voter’s, so that’s where it was returned.
Vazquez-Diaz said officials had no idea how the envelope made its way into the hands of Novak’s tipster.
But as for Novak’s tweets, she said they were “inaccurate.”
This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.
Vazquez-Diaz, Valerie. Director of communications and public affairs, New York City Board of Elections. Interview with FactCheck.org. 31 Oct 20.
Novak, Jake (@jakejakeny). “BREAKING NEWS: Several Queens Village (NY) residents are receiving pre-filled out ballots for Joe Biden and being told to just send them back to the Board of Elections. This is blatantly ILLEGAL” Twitter. 29 Oct 20.
Novak, Jake (@jakejakeny). “UPDATE: Here is the video of me personally handling & examining the ballot received by a man from Queens Village in the mail on Wednesday 10/28/2020. I am about to go live with MORE details on the story at 12:20pm.” Twitter 30 Oct 20.
NYCBoardofElections (@BOENYC). “Actually it looks like it was filled out by hand and we have previously stated we have have not received any reports of this happening!” Twitter. 30 Oct 20.
NYCBoardofElections (@BOENYC). “This is the height of irresponsibility to continue to make these false claims. We have communicated directly with the voter in question, who received a BLANK absentee ballot. This is simply untrue!” Twitter, 30 Oct 20.
Trump, Eric (@EricTrump). “What is going on in New York?” Twitter. 30 Oct 20.