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'Go to those trusted sources' | Elections officials, advocates share easy ways to verify information on elections in North Carolina

North Carolina elections officials said misinformation and disinformation can create a lot of challenges.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With less than a week until Election Day, tens of thousands of voters across the country received an automated text message with misleading information about their polling location. The texts went out to voters in five states, including North Carolina, and were sent on behalf of three different advocacy groups.

The company responsible for sending the texts, Movement Labs, took responsibility for the mistakes and sent out corrections. Officials with the company said about 12,000 people in North Carolina got messages with incorrect information.

“Many of these groups are well-intended in what they’re trying to do and have a goal of educating voters and making sure they know where their voting site is or where their early voting site is and trying to encourage turnout, but it potentially goes the other way,” Karen Brinson Bell, the North Carolina Director of Elections told WCNC Charlotte.

She said disinformation, be it spread intentionally or accidentally, can create a lot of challenges.

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“What we worry about is that voters are being guided by the wrong information and aren’t going to trusted sources, their county board of elections or the state board of elections,” Brinson Bell said.

The spread of false information isn’t new to the elections process.

The misleading text messages sent earlier this week were sent on behalf of Voto Latino, Black Votes Matter, and Voting Futures. They led some to believe their polling place on Election Day was changed.

In a statement, Movement Labs, the company responsible for sending the texts said in part, they “fell short of our rigorous standards with some of these errors.”

The company has sent correction texts to verify exactly where and when to vote.

Similar situations may be particularly damaging to certain groups of people.

New polling done by the NALEO Educational Fund, a non-partisan organization encouraging the Latino population to participate in the elections process, found there is a lot of disinformation spreading right now and there are concerns this could impact voter turnout.

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“Our main concern is disinformation, misinformation that may confuse voters about the elections processes themselves, that really calls into question the security, the how, where and when to vote,” said Julio Rivera, the National Deputy Director for Civic Engagement with the fund.

Out of the 7.4 million registered voters in North Carolina, 3.5% identify as Hispanic. It’s a growing population.

“In North Carolina, we’re expecting over 100,000 Latino voters to cast their ballots this year. That represents essentially a 100% increase from back in 2014, so we’ve seen a huge increase in our power and influence when it comes to elections,” Rivera said.

State elections officials are urging people to use trusted sources for any election information.

“Any voter, any member of the public should be very careful about clicking on links or trusting what they’ve received through social media or through a text message,” Brinson Bell said. “Make sure to just go to those trusted sources of information and when it comes to elections, that’s the state board of elections or your county board of elections.”

The last day of early voting is on Saturday. Voters can go to any polling place during this period. On Election Day, voters must to go their assigned precinct.

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Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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