Inaccurate TV Graphic Sparks Erroneous Claims of Election Fraud in Pennsylvania
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Social media posts falsely suggest there was fraud in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, citing a TV graphic that showed Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano with nearly 500,000 more votes than Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, but Mastriano trailing 41.6% to 56.6%. The graphic showed inaccurate numbers that were quickly corrected on air.
At about 11 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8, about 94% of the votes were counted in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race. Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro was declared the victor, with 55% of the votes, over Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano, who received 42%, according to the Associated Press.
As of Nov. 22, Shapiro won with 3,012,691 votes, or 56.4%, while Mastriano received 2,231,882 votes, or 41.8%, according to the unofficial election results from the Pennsylvania Department of State.
But posts on social media shared a graphic aired on the conservative media outlet Right Side Broadcasting Network, or RSBN, that included inaccurate partial results of the race. The posts falsely suggest that the graphic was proof of election fraud.
One of the posts was shared on Instagram on Nov. 10 and another was shared on Nov. 21.
On Nov. 21, Mastriano — who has repeated voter fraud claims about the 2020 election and was at the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 — tweeted the RSBN graphic with the caption, “Interesting.”
The RSBN graphic showed there were 370,706 votes for Shapiro and 844,669 votes for Mastriano, but that Shapiro had 56.6% of the vote compared to Mastriano’s 41.6%. It also showed that 36% of the votes had been counted.
One comment on the Nov. 10 post said, “They don’t care that we all know they cheat. Who’s going to do anything about it??”
Although the graphic is authentic, it includes incorrect information and was briefly shown before being corrected on air and removed, according to an RSBN press release dated Nov. 11 on the station’s website.
RSBN said in the press release that the “incorrect vote counts and incorrect percentages” were broadcast for “just over a minute starting at 10:04 p.m. ET and ending at 10:05 p.m. ET.”
At 10:21 p.m., the Associated Press reported that 43% of the vote was counted, with Shapiro receiving 57.2% of the vote compared to Mastriano’s 41.1%, according to PennLive.
Manual Entry of Results Caused Error
The inaccurate graphic occurred when the station was forced to manually enter the vote counts, according to the station’s press release.
RSBN said a third-party provider that was feeding election results to the station had an issue with the station’s servers, causing RSBN to manually enter the election data into the system for the first five hours of the broadcast.
“Our talented anchors caught the error and corrected it on-air, informing everyone the graphic was incorrect and the numbers did not add up. We immediately took it off the air when it was brought to our attention,” RSBN said. “The numbers were incorrect compared to the actual numbers tabulated by the secretary of state of Pennsylvania.”
As this example shows, live TV reports aren’t always accurate on Election Day. Similar situations have occurred in the past.
During the 2021 Senate runoff elections in Georgia, social media posts shared clips of election night newscasts as evidence that votes had been taken away from Republican Sen. David Perdue. But the news clips show two data-entry errors that were quickly corrected, as we previously reported.
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