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Debunking Some Social Media Myths About New York's November Ballot

FILE - In this Monday, June 19, 2017, file photo, a user gets ready to launch Facebook on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass. Facebook’s efforts to reduce the spread of fake news using outside fact-checkers may be working, but with a big caveat. The company says once a story receives a “false rating” from a fact-checker, Facebook is able to reduce future impressions of it by 80 percent. But it regularly takes more than three days for a story to receive a false rating. And, the way news stories work, most impressions happen when the story first comes out, not three days later. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

ALBANY (WSKG) - There’s some misinformation on social media regarding a key ballot item in next month’s elections on whether to hold a Constitutional Convention.

New Yorkers have a choice of voting yes or no on three proposition questions on the November ballot.

A posting that has gone viral on social media is spreading some misinformation to voters. It warns against what it says is a “sneaky and underhanded” rule regarding the question on Proposition One- whether New York should hold a Constitutional Convention.

“Please be aware”, the post begins, that “if you leave the question blank, it's an AUTOMATIC YES, so please vote NO”.

A spokesman for the state Board of Elections, John Conklin, says that is absolutely not true.

“Only a yes vote is a yes vote,” said Conklin.

Conklin says the Board of Elections has received a number of questions about the issue, and he’s even devised a standard email to explain the rules, which are set in state statute.  He says if voters choose not to weigh in on the question, or don’t see the question, then the lack of response is not counted for either side.

“If you leave it blank, it’s a blank vote,” Conklin said.

The social media post goes on to warn that public employees like teachers, police officers and firefighters “stand to lose a great deal” if the convention were to happen.

On Facebook, the post then links to a blog that posts news about unions and other topics, affiliated with the group Union Communications Consulting Services. They did not respond to a request for comment. The blog post itself does not repeat the falsehood that if the Constitutional Convention ballot question is left blank  it counts as a yes. It instead lists several reasons for voting against the measure.

There are two other ballot propositions in next month’s elections. One would allow a judge to revoke the pensions of elected officials who are convicted of felonies.  Another would ease rules for road repair work in the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves.

But there’s more false information making the social media rounds regarding those ballot questions as well. And that is - if voters do not answer the three proposition questions listed on one side of the ballot, then the digital scanner will not register the ballot at all. Conklin says that is also not true.

“That’s called an under vote,” said Conklin. “If you leave any office blank, it will accept it”.  

Conklin says the scanner will reject a ballot that includes an “over vote”, where the voter chooses more than one candidate for an office or gives multiple answers to a ballot question. The machine then gives the voter a chance to correct their mistake and resubmit the ballot.

“If you under vote it will accept it, because that is viewed as being an intentional choice by the voters,” he said.

Conklin says the Board of Elections is trying to minimize the number of people who miss the ballot questions altogether. Every polling place must display instructions that say this year, there are two sides to each ballot. But he says, voters can choose, without any consequences, whether  to fill them both out, or not.