'Scare Liberals Away': Election Day Posts Urging People to Vote Maskless Spreading in Private FB Groups

Various campaigns have been launched in private Facebook groups aiming to "keep liberals away" by encouraging voters to go to polling places without wearing masks.

The posts come after Facebook's September announcement that it would make efforts to combat coronavirus misinformation, including deleting posts that said that voting would spread COVID. "We'll remove posts that claim that people will get COVID-19 if they take part in voting, and we'll attach a link to authoritative information about the coronavirus to posts that might use COVID-19 to discourage voting," Facebook said. Adding it would also include information about voting on "content that seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods."

The posts seemed to have circulated in groups with names such as "Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine", "Ohio Stands Up", "Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine", and "Pennsylvania Assemble For Freedom."

One post screenshotted by Media Matters read, "Voted Red and no mask." Another person in the group said he was implying that he was voting without a mask on to "keep liberals away."

A meme that appears to be circulating in the groups called for people to vote maskless. "Forced masking is a violation of your first amendment right to free speech. It is also proven uneffective [sic] and useless in the general population," the meme says.

The meme also has a quote attributed to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

The quote in the meme states:

If you choose not to wear a mask, no one will be turning you away at your polling location... you will be allowed to enter, have access, and to cast your ballot and be on your way.

It's not clear where this quote comes from but it appears to be an edited version of one that he gave during a press conference in August. The Hill reports that LaRose said something similar in a press conference, but did not say that maskless voters would be allowed in their polling place. "If a voter chooses not to wear a mask, we're going to offer them an alternative to maybe vote outside—curbside, which has been part of Ohio's voting process for a long time," he said. "If they choose not to do that, of course nobody's going to be turned away. Everyone will have access to the polling locations, but all voters should of course wear a mask as well."

He also said, "Walking into a polling place without wearing a mask is rude, it's bad manners. You should not be doing it, but if you choose to—we're going to let you cast your ballot and send you on your way.:

On October 23, The New York Times reported that the CDC had released an advisory with further measures polling locations could take to help prevent spreading the virus, including barriers between voting machines.

Facebook did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Mask Vote
John Moran poses for a photo while wearing a mask that reads "VOTE" after casting a ballot at a polling station at Miette Patisserie on November 3, 2020 in San Francisco, California. Getty/Stephen Lam