Just the Facts: Finding Truth During the Election and Beyond

Written by David Siders, Civic Engagement Coordinator at the Downtown Main Library, and the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition 

With record turnout at the polls, the 2020 election has seen more voter enthusiasm than any election in recent history. But with all the excitement can also come confusing and conflicting information, some of it intentionally meant to cause discord and distrust. Even the FBI has warned that foreign actors are likely to try to spread misinformation about election results.  

Thanks to our partnership with the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, we’re providing you with some election facts along with tips for stamping out fiction.  

Key Election Date Information 

When every state has different rules and regulations surrounding voting, it can be hard to keep the information straight. Here are the official key dates and information from the Hamilton County Board of Elections (BOE) 

The distinction between Unofficial Canvass and Official Canvass is important. Any votes counted starting Nov. 3 through Nov. 23 are considered unofficial election results. This is true of every election, not just this year. The dates change based on the actual date of election day. This year it is Nov. 3. 

The official count must be completed by Nov. 24 this year and then can be reported as the official result of the election. 

It’s a lot to wrap the brain around, but may help inform voters that what they hear on election night is not now, nor ever has been, the final cast-in-stone result. 

Know the Important Election Dates  

All of the official election date information can be found at votehamiltoncountyohio.gov 

From the Hamilton County Board of Election Administration Plan: 

  • Thursday, Oct.15  Absentee votes are opened/scanning begins. 
  • Saturday, Nov.14  BOE may begin official l canvass (count); Provisional ballots may be processed.  
  • Wednesday, Nov.18  BOE must begin official canvass (count). 
  • Monday, Nov.23  Absentee votes/provisional ballot remakes. (If a precinct election official did not complete and attach Form 12-D to the provisional ballot envelope, the board must remake and count the provisional ballot for only those contests for which the voter was otherwise eligible to vote.) 
  • Tuesday, Nov.24  Official canvass (count) must be completed. 
  • Any vote results released between Nov.3-23, 2020, are considered an unofficial canvass. 
  • The official count is completed Nov. 24, 2020, and then reported. 
  • Of course, there may be races that are contested, such as Jessica Miranda’s in 2018. After the recount she called for, it showed she won by 56 votes. 

Evaluate Sources

Where your information comes from is important, especially when it comes to this election. The University Studies Library Guide For Student Research has four simple steps for evaluating news and information (with an amusing acronym!) : the C.R.A.P. Test. 

C.  Currency - the timeliness of the information.

R.  Reliability - the accuracy, truthfulness, and correctness of the content.

A.  Authority - the source of the information.

P.  Purpose/Point of View - the reason the information exists. 

 International Federation of Library Associations also outlines some helpful steps for determining whether or not a news story or social media post is credible.  

Avoid Amplifying Disinformation or Spreading It Between Platforms 

Disinformation about voting often appears as social media posts that make inaccurate claims about how, when, and where to vote. It also includes posts that spread baseless claims about the validity or safety of voting methods or the outcomes of elections. Disinformation spreads most virulently in closed community groups on social media — like private Facebook groups, NextDoor, WhatsApp, and SnapChat. 

When you encounter disinformation online, do not engage! Commenting, "reacting," or re-sharing (even with correcting information) draws more attention and perpetuates the disinformation. 

See Something, Say Something  

If you see disinformation about voting and the election in an online post or ad, do your part to stop the spread. Don't engage, react or comment — that only means more people see it! Do take a screenshot to submit it to ReportDisinfo.org. Then share official voting information, like your local election official or Secretary of State. If you need help voting or need to report a problem, you can call or text 1-866-OUR-VOTE.  

For more information on voting in the 2020 election please visit our Voting Information page.