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Early voting has started in many states, and some conservative websites are already trafficking in conspiracy theories that the election is being decided unfairly.
On Tuesday, the Drudge Report promoted a story from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Info Wars website, which had posted a summary of Facebook posts written by two different women in Texas.
One woman, Lisa Houlette of Canyon, Texas, wrote on Facebook that she thought she had voted for Donald Trump, only to see on the summary page before she cast her ballot that Democrat Hillary Clinton’s name was checked. Houlette could not figure out how to change that vote, and so she requested help from an elections official to fix the mistake.
“I voted a straight Republican ticket and as I scrolled to submit my ballot I noticed that the Republican straight ticket was highlighted, however, the Clinton/Kaine box was also highlighted!” Houlette wrote. “I tried to go back and change and could not get it to work.”
But a local elections official told Yahoo News that there was little reason to be alarmed. Shannon Lackey, the elections coordinator for Randall County, said the county’s Hart Voting System was 10 years old but is “working exactly as it was designed to do.”
“It undergoes rigorous testing,” she said. “It is state and federal certified.”
“I believe 100 percent in our equipment. I have done this for 10 years. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t believe in it,” Lackey said. “Every person that works in this office has had a background check. It is done in a room that does not have Internet ports.”
Lackey said Houlette, the voter, likely hit a button she did not intend.
“I don’t believe there was any malicious intent on anyone’s part, the voter or ours. I think it was human error,” Lackey said.
Lackey is an appointed official. She is appointed by an election commission comprised of a county judge, the county clerk, the county tax assessor, and the chairmen of the county Democratic and Republican Parties. She did not vote in a primary election this spring because she did not want to be accused of favoring one party over another, she said.
“With this election in particular there’s been talk about so-called rigging before it even happened. So everybody is on a heightened sense of alarm. Especially in the election world, perception becomes reality and anything that gets reported on Facebook has an ability to take on a life form of its own, and that’s what happened,” Lackey said. “I truly believe this voter was trying to make sure her friends checked their vote.”
Indeed, Houlette wrote on her Facebook page that anyone reading should “be careful and double check your selections before you cast your vote! Don’t hesitate to ask for help.”
Yahoo News has asked Houlette for comment.
Republican nominee Donald Trump, trailing in the polls, has repeatedly attacked the U.S. election system as “rigged,” while alleging widespread voter fraud — and without providing any evidence for such a claim. No evidence of widespread fraud or voting-machine malfunction in modern elections has been found.