Sweden Democrats' alleged 18.8 percent vote share in EU election was a technical error, not evidence of electoral fraud

By: Christian Haag
June 12 2024

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Sweden Democrats' alleged 18.8 percent vote share in EU election was a technical error, not evidence of electoral fraud

Examples of the video posted to TikTok and X (Source: TikTok/X/Screenshot/Edited by Logically Facts)

Fact-Check

The Verdict False

The 18.8 figure shown during election night was due to a technical error and not the actual result of the exit poll.

Claim ID 4253a576

Context

During the evening of June 9, as votes in the European Parliament election were counted in Sweden, a video was uploaded to Twitter and TikTok, prompting claims of voter fraud.

The video shows a recording of a TV screen displaying a broadcast of exit polls (Valu) on Swedish Public Television (SVT). The graphics display the Sweden Democrats (SD) winning 18.8 percent of the vote, 4.9 percent higher than their actual exit poll result of 13.9 percent. 

Social media users are using the video to allege voter fraud as the displayed result is higher than the actual result achieved by the SD in the European Parliament elections.

However, the missing graphics were due to a technical issue and are not proof of tampering with the election result. 

In fact

During the complete segment discussing the exit polls, SVT began by showing the results for each party individually before showing the results for all parties together. In the individual presentation, SVT showed that the SD got 13.9 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll. In the actual election result, SD won 13.2 percent of the vote. 

In the segment, the program anchors can be heard reacting to the erroneous display of graphics, noticing that the result does not show up on the screen, and quickly moving on, stating, "We have already seen the numbers once." The video clip circulating online, which shows the SD with a higher vote share, has been taken out of context, as it only shows the faulty graphics, not the correct individual result a few minutes earlier, nor the other part of the program where the correct results for all parties were displayed a few minutes later. 

The top screenshot shows the results for the Sweden Democrats in the Exit Polls (Valu) individually (01:02).
The bottom screenshot shows the combined result from the Exit Poll (Valu) a few minutes later (01:14). 
(Source: SVT Play/Screenshot/Edited by Logically Facts)

Logically Facts contacted SVT, who told us it was a technical issue. 

"When we then switched to a slide with all eight parties' Valu figures together, the Valu figures had disappeared from the data file that would show them. Instead, it showed old test data for SD from the tests we had done on our election data and graphics systems," said Mikael Pettersson, project manager at SVT Nyheter. "We carry out extensive tests over several weeks to ensure that the election data from the Election Authority is correct on election night. During the tests, test figures from the authority are used to ensure that the data arrives. For some reason, one of these test figures was left behind, and overwrote the file with the Valu figures (which we bring in at a rather late stage as Valu will not be ready until Sunday evening). This was only discovered when the graphics went out on air." 

Pettersson also told us that the number 18.8 was random. SVT is investigating the cause of the technical error and will contact Logically Facts with any updates. 

Emma Ricknell, senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Sweden's Linnaeus University, told Logically Facts: "It is… exactly these kinds of "revelations" or "discoveries" that are piled on top of other examples (e.g. the Election Authority's website crashing in 2018) to build up arguments that electoral fraud is committed in Sweden. Depending on how widespread this example is, it is possible that it will be used in the discussions leading up to the next election to the Riksdag in 2026." 

Ricknell added: "What happened may also contribute to convincing more people in the long run, which of course has negative consequences for trust in our democratic elections."

Swedish electoral commission press secretary Lars Aden Lisinski said, "If [there is] incorrect information about the EU elections and how voting is carried out, it could undermine public confidence. It is therefore important that the public and voters scrutinize information about the EU election. The Swedish election system is robust, decentralized and transparent, which creates an inherent resistance to influence on the election results. In order to further prevent influence on the result, vote reception and vote counting are public, which means that the public has insight into the procedure."

Swedish fact-checking bureau Källkritikbyrån has also fact-checked the claim, reaching the same conclusion. 

During our investigation, we also found copies of the misleading viral video, which had been uploaded within three minutes of each other, at 21:46 CEST on TikTok by a user named "Jimmiemoments" and 21:49 CEST on X by a user named "Alexander Edbom." Edbom previously worked for the SD's communications department. Earlier in May, the Swedish investigative program Kalla Fakta revealed that several SD employees, including Edbom, worked with disseminating party propaganda anonymously on social media. According to the program, these employees had been running a so-called troll factory, something which the party had denied for years. Other than party propaganda, the content disseminated included misleading information, xenophobia, and white-power content. Kalla Fakta verified 23 accounts as being operated by Sweden Democrats, one of them being "Jimmiemoments"

Following Kalla Fakta's exposure, the Swedish tabloid Expressen revealed that Edbom had praised Putin, spread Kremlin propaganda, and blamed Ukraine for Russia's invasion for several years on his X account. Edbom quit his job after the reveal.

The verdict

Sweden Democrats' incorrect vote share figure, which appeared in SVT's exit poll program on June 9, was due to a technical error where test data was shown instead of the actual result. The amendment of the figure is not proof of election fraud. Therefore, we have marked this electoral fraud claim as false. 

(Update: This story was updated on June 18, 2024, to include a comment from the Swedish electoral commission)

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