In private Facebook groups, various campaigns have been launched that aim to “keep the liberals away” by encouraging voters to go to polling stations without masks.
The posts follow Facebook’s announcement in September that the company would make efforts to combat misinformation from corona viruses, including deleting posts that said that voting would spread COVID. “We will remove posts claiming that people will receive COVID-19 if they vote, and we will include a link to relevant information about the corona virus in posts that could use COVID-19 to deter people from voting,” Facebook said. The addition would also include information about votes on “content aimed at delegitimizing the outcome of the election or discussing the legitimacy of voting methods.
The posts appeared to have circulated in groups with names like “Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine,” “Ohio Stand Up,” “Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine,” and “Pennsylvania Assemble For Freedom.
One of the contributions filmed by Media Matters was: “Red chosen and no mask”. Another person in the group said he hinted that he would vote without a mask to “keep liberals away.
A meme that apparently circulated in the groups urged people to vote without a mask. “Forced masking is a violation of your First Amendment right to free speech. It has also proven ineffective [sic]and useless in the general population,” the meme said.
The meme also includes a quote attributed to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.
The quote in the meme states
If you choose not to wear a mask, no one at your polling station will turn you away… You may enter, you have access, you may cast your vote and you may go.
It is not clear where this quote comes from, but it seems to be an edited version of a quote he gave during a press conference in August. The Hill reports that LaRose said something similar in a press conference, but not that maskless voters were allowed in their polling station. “If a voter chooses not to wear a mask, we will offer him an alternative to perhaps vote outside the city center, which has long been part of the Ohio election process,” he said. “If they decide against it, no one will be turned away, of course. Everyone will have access to the polling stations, but all voters should wear a mask, of course.
He also said, “Going to a polling station without a mask is rude, it is bad manners. You should not do this, but if you decide to do so, we will let you hand in your ballot and send you on your way:
On October 23, the New York Times reported that the CDC had published a guide to further measures that polling stations could take to prevent the spread of the virus, including barriers between voting machines.
Facebook did not respond in time for publication to the request for comments sent by e-mail to Washington Newsday….