WASHINGTON — Between Supreme Court nomination hearings, more White House officials testing positive for COVID-19, and a mail-in ballot fiasco in Virginia, it's been quite the week here in the DC region.
And with all the breaking news comes lots of opportunities for misinformation.
The Verify team is there to help separate fact from fiction and sort through the confusion -- and we've rounded up five of this week's top claims to help.
Here's a look at some of the top questions we've had from viewers in the last week:
- Does it matter if you tape your absentee ballot shut instead of licking it? Will it be rejected in Maryland, DC or Virginia?
- How did a cut wire temporarily halt the Virginia voting registration website right at the end of the voting deadline?
- Have you been getting a ton of ballots sent to your address for people who no longer live there? Here's what to do with them.
- Are gun sales really hitting record highs across the country? We went to local gun stores and shooting ranges to find out.
- Can you remove a Supreme Court justice from the bench?
If I tape a ballot instead of licking it, will it still be accepted?
Tammy Patrick, Senior Advisor at the Democracy Fund
DC Board of Elections
Maryland State Board of Elections
Virginia Department of Elections
Spokespeople for both the Maryland Board of Elections and the Virginia Department of Elections outright said that this is false.
A D.C. Board of Elections official said the city will accept taped ballots, but offered the information that a taped ballot envelope will not process through their sorter, and requires more time to be manually processed.
What should you do with extra ballots that are mailed to your place?
SOURCE: DC Board of Elections
ANSWER: Don't open or throw away the ballots. Mail them back to the Board of Elections.
The DC Board of Elections told us it’s easy. Just mark the ballots return to sender and mail them back to the Board of Elections. You just need to write “RTS” on the outside and place them in a mail dropbox -- it's that simple.
Remember -- opening or destroying someone else’s mail is a federal offense -- so these ballots shouldn’t go in the trash or be opened up.
What happened in Virginia that caused the voting website to be down for hours?
ANSWER: An investigation is still underway, but according to Virginia election officials and Gov. Ralph Northam, a fiber optic cable was
What was cut?
A "10 giga-byte" fiber optic cable that was running off Route 10 in Chester, Virginia -- about two hours outside of the nation's capital.
How did this happen?
The cable was struck during a county sewer installation project off Route 10, according to Teresa Bonifas, a spokesperson for Chesterfield County. The sewage project had been ongoing since May 2020 and was to be completed by April 2021, with members of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) and Verizon working together to complete it.
A county contractor was working for the sewage installation project, Bonifas said. Under the Virginia Underground Damage Prevention Act, utility operators are required to mark underground lines to help prevent such damages, but this line was unmarked, Bonifas said.
While there are still a lot of unknowns as the investigation remains in preliminary phases, Tuesday's debacle ignited a call for increased security efforts and voting registration deadlines to be extended.
Are gun sales really hitting record highs across the country?
David Chipman, firearms expert
Firearms expert David Chipman, a retired ATF agent of 25 years and current advisor for Giffords, a gun violence prevention organization, confirms that there is no national registry for guns.
However, the Brady Act of 1993 requires federally licensed firearms dealers to conduct background checks all buyers, and the FBI tracks those checks.
The data isn’t perfect — and does not account for all gun sales — but Chipman says it’s the best data we can use to compare years.
Verify dug through dozens of pages of that FBI data, and found clear evidence that 2020 is in fact seeing record gun sales.
As of October 1, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) had conducted more than 14.8 million background checks for gun sales in the United States in 2020.
That’s more than any other entire year except 2016, when NICS recorded 14.9 million background checks for gun sales. Chipman confirms 2020 has likely surpassed that, now two weeks into October.
“So gun sales are unprecedented this year, caused by COVID and probably protests that have fueled these sales,” Chipman told Verify.
Can a Supreme Court justice be removed from the bench?
ANSWER: Yes, but it may not apply in the case of Judge Barrett.
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
“This includes a Supreme Court justice,” Dr. Graber, a Constitutional Law expert, said.
Graber said the process to remove a justice from the bench is the same as any impeachment proceeding.
“House impeaches, Senate votes on whether to convict,” he said. “As it reads, "the Senate shall have sole power to try all impeachments.”
Which begs the question, has this ever been done before?
“In American history, only one Supreme Court justice has been impeached: Samuel Chase,” Graber said. “He was impeached by the House, but not convicted by the Senate.”
So yes, there is a way to remove a Supreme Court justice from the bench, but it requires malfeasance by the justice, an impeachment, then a trial.