A pay-to-play network of partisan websites masquerading as local news is promoting yet another false story about voter fraud, and right-wing figures are echoing the falsehood — this time in the form of a baseless accusation about Nevada’s voting records.
Last week, a website called Silver State News published a story featuring an analysis by the newly formed Voter Reference Foundation that claimed to have found 15 out of Nevada’s 17 counties had logged more votes than voters in the 2020 election. (The story wasn’t true; a quick glance at Nevada’s 2020 voting data clearly shows more registered voters in the 2020 election than votes.)
But the false accusation is nothing new. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Nevada was one of several battleground states targeted with election-related misinformation — so much so that the secretary of state’s office published a “Facts vs. Myths” page debunking the surfeit of conspiracy theories targeting the state.
And in April, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, issued a report categorically denying voter registration shenanigans: “Our investigation revealed that these allegations and others are based largely upon an incomplete assessment of voter registration records and lack of information concerning the processes by which these records are compiled and maintained.”
Although the Silver State Times' core finding is easily debunked, the article also contained a number of other red flags. The Voter Reference Foundation, described in the article as “non-partisan,” is headed by a GOP activist named Doug Truax, a failed Illinois senate candidate whose PAC was financed by Chicago-based conservative megadonor Dick Uihlein.
The article also neglects to mention that the only person quoted in the story, Voter Reference Foundation’s Executive Director, Gina Swoboda, previously worked for the Trump campaign.
The site’s parent company, Metric Media, is a collaboration between former journalist and conservative businessman Brian Timpone — whose previous local news venture went up in flames after its publications were revealed to have plagiarized stories, falsified quotes, and published fake bylines — and a number of Trump-aligned political activists.
The New York Times reported that content on the network's sites is “directed by political groups and corporate P.R. firms to promote a Republican candidate or a company, or to smear their rivals.”
In the runup to the 2020 election, Metric Media’s sites were responsible for misleading stories in Michigan and Illinois (where the East Central Reporter is owned by Metric). Last fall, Media Matters identified similar bogus Metric Media stories that were shared by right-wing actors.
Yet the fact that the Nevada voting story was false didn’t deter several prominent Trump devotees from sharing it online. Liz Harrington, spokesperson to former President Donald Trump, tweeted a link to the story that garnered more than 8,500 interactions. Disgraced Trump attorney Jenna Ellis shared the story on Facebook. So did former Republican National Committee official Harmeet Dhillon.
The Tennessee Star – another outlet connected to a network of hyperpartisan news pages with a history of promoting ridiculous voter fraud conspiracy theories — republished the story directly from Silver State News. It also spread around Reddit.
On August 6, One America News Network host Natalie Harp cited the Voter Reference Foundation data in a segment about voter fraud claims in Wisconsin and Nevada prefacing an interview with former Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani about his absurd election theories. In the segment, Harp suggested that recent bogus voter fraud claims were evidence that the U.S. is a “banana republic” that no longer hosts free and fair elections.
Though most of us have moved on from the 2020 election, the MAGA right continues to share fabricated claims of alleged voting shenanigans. These claims are clearly baseless, but the fact that they’re still ricocheting around right-wing media eight months after an election should scare us all.