A viral tale on social media falsely claims that a campaign official for President-elect Joe Biden was arrested in an illegal ballot-harvesting scheme in Texas. He has not been charged or arrested. The false claim stems from unverified allegations in an unsuccessful lawsuit brought by a group of Republicans.
Continuing a flow of falsehoods about the 2020 election, social media users are sharing a fabricated claim that a state political director for Joe Biden’s campaign has been arrested for voter fraud — and chiding news outlets for not covering it.
A popular tweet on Nov. 14 declared, “Biden Campaign Staffer, Dallas Jones was arrested for Voter Fra_d. Accused of harvesting thousands of ball_ts and voting under names of homeless, elderly, dead people. MSM is suppressing the story.”
Media outlets are not covering the story because there is no evidence that Jones, a Houston-based political consultant who serves as Biden’s political director for Texas, has been arrested or charged with such a crime. Harris County court records show no such criminal case filed against him.
“This is completely make believe and they’re running with it,” Jones told us in a Nov. 16 phone interview.
The bogus arrest claim instead stems from unverified allegations floated by Republicans several weeks before the election in their attempt to prevent the expansion of mail-in and early voting in Harris County, Texas.
The legal filing was made in late September by a conservative activist, Steven Hotze, and several other Republicans, including two candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot. The filing asked the state Supreme Court to stop the Harris County clerk from allowing early voting to begin Oct. 13 (rather than Oct. 17) and from accepting in-person deliveries of mail-in ballots prior to Nov. 3. The county’s actions were allowed under a July proclamation from Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.
Contained in that court filing were allegations of a purported “ballot harvesting operation” in Harris County — including affidavits from two private investigators who claimed to have witnesses describing the alleged operation.
“Ballot harvesting” refers to third parties collecting and delivering ballots; the laws surrounding that collection vary by state. The court filing by Hotze claimed that the operation included collecting absentee ballots, forging voters’ signatures and fraudulently casting votes. The private investigators claimed Jones was among the leaders of the operation.
“In lieu of any viable legal claim, Relators launch a series of wild accusations of a ballot-harvesting conspiracy orchestrated by the leadership of the Harris County government and a State Senator,” the response said. “These accusations are backed by no evidence whatsoever and are of dubious provenance, coming from private investigators who do not disclose either their clients or sources.”
The state Supreme Court rejected the request to stop Harris County from carrying out its expansion of early voting.
So the claim about Jones and ballot harvesting was made by Republicans during an unsuccessful legal pursuit, and has not been corroborated by any law enforcement agency.
Jones told us that he had never been questioned by the FBI (as some have claimed) or any other authorities about the allegations.
“I’ve never been interrogated by the FBI,” he said. “I’m not running a ballot harvesting scheme.”
Jones also said he was still employed by the Biden campaign, contrary to online assertions he had been fired, though he said that job would be winding down as the campaign does.
A Biden campaign official likewise told us that Jones had not been fired and called the viral claims “laughably false.”
This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.
Abbott, Greg. “Proclamation by the Governor of the State of Texas.” 27 Jul 2020.
“Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. led by police in handcuffs.” Associated Press. YouTube. 13 Jun 2019.
In Re Steven Hotze, M.d., Harris County Republican Party, Hon. Keith Nielsen, Wendell Champion, Sharon Hemphill, And Al Hartman | On Petition for Writ of Mandamus to the Harris County Clerk. Chris Hollins’s Response To Petition For Writ Of Mandamus And Motion For Emergency Relief. Texas Supreme Court. 30 Sep 2020.
In Re Steven Hotze, M.d., Harris County Republican Party, Hon. Keith Nielsen, Wendell Champion, Sharon Hemphill, And Al Hartman | On Petition for Writ of Mandamus to the Harris County Clerk. Petition For Writ Of Mandamus. Texas Supreme Court. 28 Sep 2020.
Jones, Dallas. Political director for Texas, Biden Campaign. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 16 Nov 2020.
“Search Our Records and Documents.” Office of Harris County District Clerk. Accessed 16 Nov 2020.
Svitek, Patrick. “Biden campaign adds more staff in Texas.” Texas Tribune. 14 Sep 2020.
“VOPP: Table 10: Who Can Collect and Return an Absentee Ballot Other Than the Voter.” National Conference of State Legislatures. 28 Aug 2020.