Skip to content
Philly Tips
Link copied to clipboard

How to avoid getting duped by election season misinformation

Truth or fiction? A guide to debunking election misinformation in minutes.

Officials with the U.S. Justice Department inspect sample ballots outside a South Philadelphia polling place in May.
Officials with the U.S. Justice Department inspect sample ballots outside a South Philadelphia polling place in May.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

The rise of social media has brought a surge in misinformation that can travel at the speed of a finger clicking a “share” button. In recent years, “fake news” has become one of the biggest concerns during election season for local, state and federal governments.

Remember when accusations were made against Pennsylvania, that thousands of dead people were casting ballots in the 2020 Election? Misinformation like that spreads quickly, but according to a former Philadelphia City Commissioner of elections, it’s one of the “easiest things in the world” to disprove.

“You know from the Social Security death index when somebody died and you know from the voter registration record when a vote is cast,” said Al Schmidt, now president of the independent elections and government watchdog group Committee of Seventy. “When you compare the Social Security death index with the voter registration record — as I did when I was in office — there was no evidence of dead people voting.”

Between misleading quotes from political candidates to targeted social media advertisements containing false information, misinformation can be found anywhere. There’s no time like an election season to hone your critical thinking skills and ensure you don’t get duped.

What is misinformation?

Misinformation is false or misleading information. When that misinformation is used to intentionally deceive people, it is called disinformation. In elections, it’s usually used to try and get a particular candidate elected or cast doubt on the election process.

Mis- and disinformation can come in the form of quotes from political candidates or partisan organizations, viral social media campaigns, or spam calls, emails and texts.

Common examples of election misinformation are:

  1. Intentionally sharing the wrong election date and polling locations.

  2. Misrepresenting the requirements to vote.

  3. Casting doubt on the integrity of the election system with provably false claims.

  4. False accusations against political candidates or election officials.

What if I see misinformation about the election?

Don’t believe everything you see and hear. According to Schmidt, people need to be aware that there are political operatives actively spreading misinformation leading up to and on Election Day.

In October, the FBI confirmed foreign actors are likely to use misinformation tactics during the 2022 Midterm Elections, as they have in previous elections.

When you see information regarding the election, don’t share it with others right away. Check out where the source of information is coming from and cross reference with other sources like the local election board, government and reputable news outlets.

Trusted sources of information on Election Day

Your number one sources for verifiable election information is your county’s local election board and Pennsylvania’s Department of State.

  1. Local Boards of Elections monitor and operate county elections, count the votes and announce winners for their county. You can visit Philly’s election board website at To find your local election board visit

  2. The Dept. of State oversees each counties’ election and officially announces statewide winners when votes are counted. You can visit their website

Remember, the official results of the election will not be ready the night of the election. Media unofficially announce winners of elections using available election data from official sources, the Associated Press and others, but that doesn’t mean it’s certified yet. Most votes will be reported within hours of polls closing at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, and the vast majority should be counted by the next day.

There are also Philly organizations not affiliated with political parties that are good sources of information:

For election questions, you can also get help from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission at If you need to fact check information, you can use Snopes or PolitiFact.

How to report election misinformation in Philadelphia

The city’s election board and state and federal law enforcement agencies work together to share and investigate complaints of misinformation.

  1. Philadelphia County Board of Elections: Investigates complaints about voting and issues in and around polling locations. Call 215-686-1590 to report misinformation or other election complaints.

  2. District Attorney Office’s Election Task Force (ETF): Investigates criminal complaints of voting and activity at polling locations. Call 215-686-9641 to report misinformation or other election complaints.

  3. Pennsylvania Department of State: Investigates complaints regarding election security. Call 1-877-868-3772 or submit a complaint online at

  4. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): Investigates potential election crimes including disinformation. Call the FBI Philadelphia field office at 215-418-4000 and ask for the election crimes coordinator or submit information at

  5. National Nonpartisan Election Protection Hotline: Monitors and tracks misinformation campaigns. You can also volunteer as a disinformation monitor. Call 866-OUR-VOTE to report misinformation or other election complaints.

How does Philadelphia combat misinformation?

It’s a group and year-round effort.

Philly’s election board works on the ground through initiatives like Commissioner Omar Sabir’s Octavius V. Catto voter outreach task force, partnering with groups like Committee of Seventy, to ensure voters have access to accurate information, host community events to engage residents and provide outreach and election information through social media. The local election board also debunks misinformation when needed, like Schmidt did in 2020 as city commissioner.

The District Attorney’s Office, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office and the Pennsylvania Dept. of State collaborate with local election boards on investigating complaints and monitoring election security. The FBI is available in all steps of the election process to investigate criminal issues when needed.

Together, these agencies prepare for a variety of scenarios, including election fraud, voter suppression, foreign election interference, cyber attacks against election infrastructure, and threats to election workers.