Debunking a rumor of election fraud by a Latter-day Saint congregation in Tucson, Arizona
The Deseret News communicated with more than 20 Latter-day Saint bishops. Not one could corroborate the rumor
RUMOR: An election fraud rumor is circulating on Twitter that a Latter-day Saint congregation in Tucson, Arizona, asked members to bring their ballots to church so they could “fill them out together as they are instructed” and that “monitors will oversee the ‘voting.’”
I was told by my LDS friend in Tucson that her family has been told they are to bring their mail in ballots to church & fill them out together as they are instructed. Monitors will oversee the “voting”. They said they didn’t get theirs & would have to vote in person. They lied.— TucsonLady🌵🐝🦋🐰☮️🌈🌊 (@Tucsonbelle12) October 27, 2022
I have been informed that the Tucson LDS (Mormon) Church requiring members to attend “voting ballot parties” is being reported to proper authorities and a formal complaint is expected tomorrow.— TucsonLady🌵🐝🦋🐰☮️🌈🌊 (@Tucsonbelle12) October 27, 2022
The tweet by @Tucsonbelle12 claimed that an “LDS friend” in Tucson told her this. The tweet had nearly 20,000 likes as of midday on Friday. A subsequent tweet by the same account said, “I have been informed that the Tucson LDS (Mormon) Church requiring members to attend ‘voting ballot parties’ is being reported to proper authorities and a formal complaint is expected tomorrow.”
FACTS: The Deseret News communicated with more than 20 Latter-day Saint bishops who lead local congregations in Tucson, Arizona. Not one of them could corroborate the rumor. The Deseret News also reached out to the Pima County election office, and an election worker who declined to give her name said, when asked about the rumor, “There haven’t been any reports. They would have reported this to all of us already.”
The owner of @tucsonbelle12, the Twitter account circulating the rumor, responded on Friday night to a request by Deseret News for comment. She said she did not have any additional information about the rumor besides what was in her two tweets.
The Deseret News called or texted more than 50 bishops of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Tucson area and nearly half responded. Not a single one had heard of the rumor or of any similar circumstance in their congregation or the area. Many were shocked at the suggestion that something like this would happen in a congregation, given the church’s strong emphasis on political neutrality.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral regarding partisan politics and does not dictate the votes of its members, according to a statement on the church’s website. The church also prohibits the use of worship facilities for partisan political purposes. “The church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians,” its statement reads. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.”
Latter-day Saint bishops in the Tucson area reacted with both amusement, bemusement and shock when asked about the rumor. Not a single one had heard of it.
“Yikes, and no, I haven’t heard of anything like that,” one bishop said. Another commented humorously “we just thought it was a good idea,” before bursting into laughter and then confirming that he’d never heard of anything like that happening.
“I’ve never heard of anyone doing that in my whole life — that is absurd,” another said.
Many of the bishops said they had read the church’s statement of political neutrality over the pulpit, which also encourages members to participate in the political process by voting.
“I’ve been out of town this week,” one bishop said over the phone. “But it’s not us. We’re not organized enough to pull that off,” he said chuckling. “No, that totally floors me. It’s certainly not our ward. We read the letter (on political neutrality), but that’s it.”
Other responses included, “No, I haven’t heard of that at all. That’s bizarre.” Another bishop joked that he’d seen and heard a lot of funny things in his day but “I’ve never heard that one.”
Jana Cherrington, a communications specialist for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located in southern Arizona, speculated that it’s possible some confusion might stem from the fact that at least one church building in the area, like other denominations and schools in Tucson, opens its facilities on Election Day to be used as a public polling station. Another bishop mentioned a request from a student to possibly survey their congregation about politics, but said the student never followed up with the congregation.
Every bishop said the rumor was not true to their knowledge. “I’d be shocked if this was happening in any ward,” a bishop added.