A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
New Georgia voting law is far stricter than that in Colorado
CLAIM: Major League Baseball moved the All-Star game to Colorado because Georgia now requires voter ID, but Colorado has the same requirement.
THE FACTS: Colorado does not require a photo identification card to vote, while Georgia’s new law requires voters to use such IDs to request vote-by-mail ballots and existing state law requires them for voting in person. Furthermore, Georgia’s newly passed voting rules that caused a backlash among critics are more sweeping than just ID requirements. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a 98-page measure into law on March 25 that rewrote Georgia election rules. Critics say the new law is too restrictive and will lead to voter disenfranchisement. They highlighted a provision that make it a misdemeanor to hand out water or food to anyone waiting in line to vote within 150 feet of the polling place and within 25 feet of anyone in line.
The new law requires voters applying to receive a mailed ballot to include a driver’s license or state-issued ID number in their application, and then write that number on the envelope when they mail back their ballots. The law, which also gives the Republican-controlled legislature more authority over local election administration, follows former President Donald Trump’s false claims that widespread voter fraud occurred in Georgia and other states he lost in the November election.
After the law passed, Major League Baseball released a statement on April 2 saying it would no longer hold its All-Star game in Truist Park in Atlanta because the organization “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.” MLB announced Tuesday that the new location for the game would be Denver’s Coors Field. Social media users compared voter laws in the two states to falsely claim that Colorado’s laws are not that different from Georgia’s. One tweet that was widely shared on Twitter and Facebook spread the falsehood that the states have the same voter ID requirements, proving that the move was foolish. “Soooo! MLB moved the All-Star game from Georgia because of voter ID requirements, to Colorado WHICH ALREADY HAS VOTER ID!!” one Facebook post said. Despite what the posts online say, Colorado, a Democratic-controlled state, has less restrictive voting rules than Georgia. The state does not require voters to show photo identification to vote, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.
David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, said 94% of Colorado’s voters cast their ballots by mail in November since the state sends all registered voters mailed ballots automatically. “The simple fact is Colorado is one of the easiest states to vote in and also has the highest election integrity of any state in the country,” Becker said. When voters choose to cast ballots in person, the state accepts many forms of identification that prove a voter’s name and address, including a current copy of a utility bill, paycheck or bank statement. Voters who use a mailed ballot for the first time may also be asked to send in a photocopy of one of those documents.
The U.S. government has no plans to require ‘vaccine passports’
CLAIM: The federal government wants to require Americans to present a health passport or vaccine certificate “on demand,” including for domestic travel.
THE FACTS: The U.S. government has no plans to require so-called vaccine passports to travel domestically, or for any other purpose. While private businesses are considering vaccine passports for certain activities, Biden administration officials have said the federal government will not mandate vaccine passports. A vaccine passport is documentation that shows a person has been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or recently tested negative. The information will be in the form of a scannable code that can be stored on a smartphone or printed out.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the Biden administration is “not now nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
But posts circulating on social media are falsely implying that vaccine passports will be mandatory in the U.S., including for domestic travel. “President Biden and the Democrats want to force Americans to present a ‘vaccine passport’ upon demand, yet they oppose presenting an ID to cast a vote,” reads a tweet by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. A Facebook post claims: “So, now, I will need a Health Passport to travel IN America, but Illegals don’t need any kind of Passport to enter INTO America!”
Such claims are “patently false,” according to Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor, and director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. “There are no plans in the US to introduce a vaccine passport for domestic travel,” Gostin said to the AP in an email. “Neither the government nor the US airline industry have announced any plans for requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of interstate travel.”
Gostin explained that foreign carriers were discussing a voluntary COVID vaccine passport system, but it did not include U.S. carriers yet. In the U.S., only one state has rolled out a vaccine passport. New York introduced an app through a limited government partnership with a private company. People can show proof of vaccination or a negative test with an app to enter places like entertainment venues. Lawmakers in a handful of states, including Pennsylvania, are trying to ban vaccine passports.
Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also issued an executive order banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof they got the shot. The Facebook post’s claim that people without legal status in the U.S. are allowed to enter without documentation is also misleading. Those trying to enter the U.S. must show proof they are an American citizen or documents showing they have permission to enter the country, otherwise they are placed in expedited removal proceedings and face deportation. The law does allow those without documents who have a credible fear of returning to their home country to enter and apply for asylum.
— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.