On September 15 2021, rumors that “351K” or “400K” votes had “disappeared” from California gubernatorial recall totals during a CNN segment were popular on social media:
In the above tweet, Twitter user Benny Johnson shared CNN video, braying:
Someone explain to me why the Gavin Newsom recall effort had 351K votes DELETED from the YES total LIVE on CNN.
What explanation is there for this?
We need to know. Hundreds of thousands of votes subtracted.
It’s not unbelievable if you watch it happen with your own eyes: WATCH
Right-wing pundit Charlie Kirk lodged a similar allegation, which Trendolizer marked as virally popular on September 15 2021. A video clip on Rumble.com was credited to Kirk, and its title used language nearly identical to Johnson’s:
351K Votes Seem to Disappear from CA YES total LIVE on CNN – Watch For Yourself
Another iteration appeared on Patriots.win, a site descended from Reddit’s banned r/TheDonald subreddit. It was titled “watch them delete 400k votes from elder’s total live on cnn!”
Across the board, shares of the claim that “351K” or “400K votes” had “disappeared” on CNN relied primarily on video evidence (in some cases, only a still image of the clip was posted). A Facebook user shared a screengrab of the segment and wrote:
The Case of the Disappearing Votes, part 2?
I don’t know about this, yet, but I’m sharing it. The video (link in the comments) shows the “yes” votes to recall California Governor Newsom last night losing 400K votes from one screen refresh to another, while the “no” votes remain the same. Just like the Presidential election.
However, one thing doesn’t add up. The percentage of the vote tally drops from 52% to 49%. It should have increased (unless I’m reading this wrong). So, make of this what you will for now. I can’t confirm it.
However, I can confirm that an unknown number of GOP voters found their votes already cast in the election. And, people received more than one ballot in the mail, some getting as many as five.
Newsom may have legitimately kept his seat last night, but I don’t trust the percentage. Without secure elections, we can’t actually know.
Final point, there is nothing glorious about a guy going through a second election for the same term because so many voters couldn’t stomach him for just one more year. Declare him a winner, but he’s still a loser.
As we have been reporting, claims of “election fraud” in the California recall were pre-emptively seeded in order to be able to draw on them for future disinformation campaigns. On September 14 2021, a premature claim of a “stolen election” were among the threads still being spun by disinformation purveyors.
Claims about the missing 351K or 400K votes were swiftly folded into the ongoing attempts to shake confidence in the failed recall attempt, as well as being used to sow distrust in American elections in general. After Kirk’s and Johnson’s claims spread loudly across social media, the Associated Press explained the cause of the “disappearing votes” on CNN:
In reality, the vote changes had a simple explanation: a brief reporting error by an Edison Research staffer at a county office in Santa Clara, California. The changing numbers in the viral clip are a result of the error being fixed, according to Rob Farbman, executive vice president of Edison Research.
“While the ‘No’ vote was entered correctly at 11:19ET, the ‘Yes’ vote that appeared for 2 minutes on CNN was actually the ‘total’ vote of the combined ballots for Yes/No/ Santa Clara,” Farbman said in an email. “This error was entered at 11:19pm ET and corrected 2 minutes later at 11:21pm ET when we deleted the “total vote” in for ‘Yes’ and entered the correct ‘Yes’ vote.”
The error was not limited to CNN and affected several other networks that subscribe to Edison Research polling.
Claims that 351,000 or 400,000 votes in the California recall had “disappeared” from the “YES total” live on CNN remained in circulation, uncorrected. An article explaining the on-air discrepancy appeared on the afternoon of September 15 2021, but — as is so often the case — didn’t seem to make a dent in the viral and misleading claim.