An Atlanta-area mayor who used Facebook to encouraged Democrats to vote on the incorrect day has deleted Facebook post — and his entire public page — after being criticized. But he insists he was just being funny.
“Remember the voting days: Republicans vote on Tuesday, 11/8 and Democrats vote on Wednesday, 11/9,” Mayor Jefferson Riley of Mansfield, Georgia, wrote in the status update, which is now only available via screengrabs.
Wow. Just got this screengrab from a friend. Jefferson Riley, the Republican mayor of Mansfield, Georgia trying to fool Democratic voters. pic.twitter.com/g2JpxdxBUX— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) November 8, 2016
In response to social media criticism, he begrudgingly deleted the post, complaining about the humorlessness of his followers.
“People take things so seriously,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You can’t joke about anything anymore — especially on social media.”
“Anything” is probably a bit of a stretch. But he’s right that misinformation about voting, especially by an elected official, is generally considered serious.
Part of that is because this kind of activity — spreading misinformation about how or when to cast a ballot, targeted to particular demographic groups or parties — is a very real technique that’s been used in attempts to shape the outcome of elections.
On its surface, it has a lot in common with recent efforts by Donald Trump supporters to suppress support for Hillary Clinton in advance of Election Day. As German Lopez reported, an account infamous for its racist, sexist, and homophobic tweets recently posted a series of advertisements with misinformation about voting by text.
Two of the three ads in the examples seemed to be designed to appeal minority voters, with one of the ads written entirely in Spanish and all of them specifically targeting Clinton supporters.
“This isn’t the only way Trump supporters are apparently aiming to stop Clinton voters from reaching the polls. Previously, Trump supporters told the Boston Globe that they plan to intimidate nonwhite voters on Election Day,” Lopez wrote.
Hopefully even Riley can now see that anything that has the effect of infringing on voters’ rights — regardless of how it’s intended — is unfunny.