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From taping ballots shut to that Virginia wire fiasco, we're fact-checking 5 of this weeks top claims

Oh yeah, and we had Supreme Court nomination hearings. Phew, it's been a week. The Verify team breaks it down here.
Credit: WUSA9

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?

RELATED: VERIFY: Your absentee ballot won't be automatically rejected if you tape it shut instead of licking it

SOURCES

Tammy Patrick, Senior Advisor at the Democracy Fund

DC Board of Elections

Maryland State Board of Elections

Virginia Department of Elections

ANSWER:

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.

Read more on the process here.

What should you do with extra ballots that are mailed to your place?

RELATED: VERIFY: Here's what you should do if you receive more than one ballot in DC

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.

To find out how to track your ballot status, click here.

What happened in Virginia that caused the voting website to be down for hours?

RELATED: How did a cut wire crash Virginia's voter registration system? Here's a breakdown

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.

Here's more on how long the site was down, and what county officials had to say about it.

Are gun sales really hitting record highs across the country?

RELATED: VERIFY: Yes, gun sales are hitting record numbers across the country

SOURCES

David Chipman, firearms expert

National Instance Criminal Background Check System  

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.

Listen to what local gun shop owners and firearm instructors have to say, or check out more of the NICS data, here.

Can a Supreme Court justice be removed from the bench?

RELATED: Verify: Yes, a Supreme Court justice can be removed from the bench

SOURCES:

ANSWER: Yes, but it may not apply in the case of Judge Barrett.

Article 2 Section 4 of the Constitution states that:

“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.

Read more about the confirmation process here.