'Human error' during election broadcast fuels Pennsylvania fraud claim

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Republican Doug Mastriano, who conceded to his Democratic challenger Josh Shapiro in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, shared an image on Twitter featuring incorrect vote counts, implying fraud occurred during in the 2022 midterms. This is false; the broadcaster that aired the graphic said a data entry error was behind the discrepancy, and there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the state.

On November 21, 2022, Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator, tweeted an image in which his opponent appears to have far fewer votes despite being shown as winning 56.6 percent to his 41.6 percent.

"Yeah this looks completely accurate," the text over the image says.

Screenshot of a tweet taken on November 23, 2022

Another tweet, making a similar claim, was shared thousands of time since November 9.

Unofficial results show that Mastriano lost to Shapiro by more than 780,000 votes.

While conceding on November 13, the Trump-backed candidate who was photographed on the Capitol grounds during the January 6, 2021 insurrection and endorsed the idea that state legislatures have the legal authority to override the popular vote, continued to cast doubt on the transparency of the election.

But the graphic shared by Mastriano is not proof of fraud.

Searching for the logo visible in the bottom right of the image leads to the Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN). The network, best known for live-streaming Trump rallies, regularly covers conservative politics on its platform and YouTube channel.

A replay of RSBN's election coverage which contains the erroneous graphic is available here.

RSBN confirmed to AFP by email that the mistake came from the network. "It was a user error while inputting numbers."

The network also acknowledged that incorrect vote counts were displayed on screen in a November 11 press release. It explained that a provider intended to automatically feed its system with election data failed, causing its staff to have to manually input vote counts for several hours of its November 8 broadcast.

"This was an example of a human error, not an intentional public misleading. We do apologize for any confusion this brought about," it said.

RSBN said the incorrect counts were "displayed on screen for just over a minute starting at 10:04 p.m. ET and ending at 10:05 p.m. ET."

AFP confirmed the timing of the error via the replay of the broadcast.

Four hours and eleven minutes in to the broadcast, anchor Vanessa Boussard, looked at the numbers displayed on screen for the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race and said: "Correct me if I'm wrong, the math does not add up."

Her colleague, Brian Glenn added: "We'll get a correction on that."

A screenshot of the RSBN election night broadcast replay taken on November 23, 2022

RSBN's statement said: "We immediately took it off the air when it was brought to our attention. The numbers were incorrect compared to the actual numbers tabulated by the secretary of state of Pennsylvania."

False claims of fraud continue to target the battleground state, but Pennsylvania's acting secretary of state and the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency found no verified reports of widespread malfeasance affecting the 2022 midterms.

AFP has fact-checked other inaccurate claims about the 2022 election here.