Influencer Sentenced for Vote-By-Text Meme

Elections on a phone | Image by LanKS

Douglass Mackey was sentenced to seven months in jail last Wednesday for memes he posted in the leadup to the 2016 presidential election claiming Democrats could vote for Hillary Clinton by text.

Mackey — who went by the name “Ricky Vaughn” on social media — had about 58,000 followers on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. He was convicted in March on charges of election interference and voter suppression, which were levied against him by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The DOJ alleged that Mackey conspired with others in a private online chat group to use social media to disseminate the inaccurate claim, specifically targeting black and Hispanic supporters of Hillary Clinton.

One of the memes depicted a black woman holding a sign that read “President Hillary” with the caption, “Avoid the line. Vote from home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.” The meme also had a small disclaimer at the bottom purporting to relay the fabricated legal minutia of voting by text, which is actually not legal anywhere in the United States. The disclaimer also read, “Paid for by Hillary For President 2016.”

Although the prosecution claimed during the trial that 4,900 different phone numbers tried to text a vote to 59925 or some similar number, no one testified that they were actually disenfranchised, reported The Post Millennial.

“Voting is the right that secures all other rights we hold dear,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik David Paulsen, who prosecuted the case, per Courthouse News Service. “They were committing fraud, one that was aimed at one of our most sacred rights in our democracy.”

Mackey argued at trial that he was only attempting to create a viral meme similar to ones created by Clinton supporters encouraging Trump supporters to vote by text, which allegedly did not catch the ire of DOJ officials.

Social media user Greg Price pointed to just such a tweet by a Clinton supporter to demonstrate the alleged double standard. In his post, Price contrasted Mackey’s meme with one by Kristina Wong. Wong’s post read, “Hey Trump Supporters! Skip poll lines at #Election2016 and TEXT in your vote! Text votes are legit. Or vote tomorrow on Super Wednesday!”

Elon Musk also posted about the sentence, arguing that the alleged suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop by the FBI and others right before the 2020 presidential election was much more consequential than Mackey’s meme.

“That had no material impact on the election,” Musk claimed in a post containing Mackey’s meme and the sentence handed down by the judge. “What prison sentences were given out to those who suppressed the Hunter Biden laptop information? That did have a material impact on the election.”

However, others believe the 4,900 attempts by people to text their vote constitute the consequences of a crime Mackey deserved to serve jail time for.

Another social media user named Davina posted: “Over 4,900 people texted the fake election number that Mackey devised and deceptively promoted online as a way to cast a vote for H Clinton in the 2016 federal election. That’s not a meme, that’s a plot to steal votes away from a presidential candidate via fraudulent means.”

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