Facebook and Twitter placed warning labels on – but did not remove – social media posts by President Donald Trump on Saturday after he urged North Carolina residents to show up to polling places even if they have already submitted a mail-in ballot, a practice state election officials have explicitly advised against.
Trump claimed that North Carolina voters should “make sure your Ballot COUNTS” by visiting polling places to “see if it was COUNTED. IF NOT, VOTE!”
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein tweeted in response to the President, telling North Carolina residents: “Do NOT do what the President directs.” He added that voting twice is a felony and voters should not “unnecessarily risk exposure to more people” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Voters in North Carolina do not need to head to the polls to check whether their ballot has been counted. Patrick Gannon, a public information officer with the North Carolina State Board of Elections, told CNN’s Maegan Vazquez and Nikki Carvajal in early September that there are three different ways for people to check the status of their ballots.
They can use a tool called BallotTrax; they can check the voter search tool on the board’s website which will show when a voter’s ballot has been accepted; or they can contact their county board of elections.
State officials have sought to correct Trump numerous times on the misleading claim. Last week, North Carolina’s state board of elections said absentee ballots are counted after Election Day, and that voters who have already submitted a mail-in ballot will not be able to vote in-person on a regular ballot.
Those who “insist” on voting in-person will be given a provisional ballot, officials said, which may not be counted if voters have already submitted a mail-in ballot.
Twitter’s label said Trump’s posts ran afoul of the platform’s rules about civic and election integrity. Facebook said voting by mail “has a long history of trustworthiness.”
Neither label informed users about the potential illegality of attempting to vote twice. But in a separate statement to CNN, Twitter acknowledged it is a felony to vote more than once in the same election, citing last week’s state-issued guidance.
“Per the North Carolina State Board of Elections, voting twice in the state is illegal,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. “To protect people on Twitter, we err on the side of limiting the circulation of Tweets which advise people to take actions which could be illegal in the context of voting or result in the invalidation of their votes.”
Facebook and Twitter have tried to persuade the public that they are ready for the election by rolling out new policies directed at political speech. Facebook has said it will limit some political advertising the week before Election Day, while Twitter this week introduced new rules on election misinformation that could result in greater enforcement against Trump’s tweets.
But Saturday’s incident suggests the platforms will continue to allow Trump to confuse the public about how mail-in voting works.
Trump has repeatedly claimed in recent weeks, contrary to state election officials, that voters’ mail-in ballots may not be counted. Previously, Facebook removed a video of Trump encouraging Americans to vote twice. But neither Facebook nor Twitter removed Trump’s latest post.
Asked to explain why Trump’s latest post was permitted to stand, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone cited the North Carolina advisory and its explanation of various safeguards to prevent double-voting.
Twitter’s label on Trump’s tweet said it “may be in the public’s interest for the tweet to remain accessible.”
CNN’s Sam Fossum contributed to this report.