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US election fact check: The voting dead?

Rob Mudge | Joscha Weber
November 10, 2020

US President Donald Trump shows no sign of conceding the presidential election. Instead, his supporters are making further allegations about irregularities. DW Fact Check examines the latest claims.

Trump supporters in California holding a banner reading "stop the steal"
Image: helenhhww/REUTERS

1. 'Dead' voters

Claim: Some 14,000 voters in Michigan cast a ballot under the names of deceased people.

In one instance, the ballot of a 118-year-old deceased man, William Bradley, was counted in Michigan.

Fact check:

State election officials publicly acknowledged that a returned ballot was recorded for a man named William Bradley, who had died in 1984.

The ballot was recorded in error after it was confused with one submitted by his son, who shares his name, but has the middle name Tarnell, and lives in his deceased father's home. Local officials in Michigan said the son's ballot was mistakenly attributed to the father on the official voting system. Only one vote, not two, was tallied. 

The Michigan Secretary of State's office states unequivocally that ballots of voters who have died are rejected in Michigan, even if a voter cast an absentee ballot and died before Election Day. 

Read moreDW Fact Check: Debunking election misinformation online

2. Voter fraud in Michigan


Michigan Republican Chairwoman Laura Cox claimed that an election software glitch in Antrim County switched 6,000 votes for President Donald Trump to votes for Joe Biden.

That was taken up by Texas Senator Ted Cruz in an interview with Fox News, who alleged that voter fraud was likely in many of the 28 states where the software's manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems supplied the technical support.

Fact check:

There was, indeed, a vote reporting mistake. 

However, it was not the result of malfunctioning voting machines. Instead, it stemmed from a human lapse to update and configure the software used to tally votes. In aNovember 7 statement, Jocelyn Benson, the Michigan Secretary of State, said, "The error in reporting unofficial results in Antrim County Michigan was the result of a user error that was quickly identified and corrected; did not affect the way ballots were actually tabulated; and would have been identified in the county canvass before official results were reported even if it had not been identified earlier." 

J. Alex Halderman, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan and a voting systems expert, said he is convinced that it was a human error.

County officials correctly loaded a new version of the "election definition" data onto the scanners for the affected areas, but left the old version on scanners for precincts where the ballot was not affected by the late change, Halderman told the Detroit Free Press.

"Since the scanners ... used slightly different election definitions, some of the positions didn't line up properly," he said. "As a result, when the results were read by the election management system, some of them were initially assigned to the wrong candidates.

3. Was the election 'stolen?'

Claim: The outgoing president tweeted on Sunday that the "best pollster in Britain wrote this morning that this was clearly a stolen election," quoting a claim made on Fox News by former Republican politician Newt Gingrich.

The pollster in question is Patrick Basham, who runs the Democracy Institute think tank in Washington, D.C. He's been monitoring election results together with the UK's tabloid Sunday Express.

Fact check:

It's unclear what Trump means when he says "stolen." Assuming that he's referring to alleged voting irregularities, such as fraud, there is still no evidence of widespread irregularities. Judges have already tossed out a number of legal challenges in that respect launched by the Trump campaign.

In Nevada, a judge threw out an attempt by the Republicans to stop the use of a signature verification machine. The judge rejected allegations that the equipment wasn't able to check signatures properly. In Georgia, a judge dismissed a lawsuit to halt the count based on allegations of mixing counted and uncounted ballots, saying there was no evidence of any tampering. Meanwhile in Michigan, a judge rejected a challenge to stop the count after the Trump campaign alleged that their observers were unable to monitor the election process. The judge determined that there was no proof that supervision had been prevented or obstructed.

On Monday, Trump's lawyers filed a lawsuit to stop the state of Pennsylvania from certifying Joe Biden's win. The allegation is that the state's use of a "two-tiered" voting system, in person and by mail, violates the US constitution. This is false. Mail-in voting is both common and constitutional and dates back to Civil War times. A number of legal experts have said that Trump's challenge has little chance of success.

Then there's the question of whether Trump's pursuit of recounts would actually alter the outcome of the election. A study by Fair Vote, a group that advocates for electoral reform, found that there were 27 statewide recounts in general elections held between 2000 and 2015. Of those, 15 were held when the original margin of victory was 0.15% or less. And three of these recounts resulted in a reversal of the original election result.

Read moreCould election challenges by Trump and Republicans succeed?

4. Were there more votes than registered voters?


"101% voter turnout in Wisconsin. Fraudulent."

Fact check:

The figures quoted on social media platforms are no longer current: 3,239,920 votes counted vs 3,129,000 registered voters. On its website, the Wisconsin Election Commission puts the number of registered voters at 3,684,726 (figures updated on November 1). 

The actual figure is expected to be even higher. This is because Wisconsin allows voters to register as late as Election Day. Regardless, the number of registered voters ishigher than the votes counted so far, which amount to 3,297,473.

This is also true of other swing states — contrary to what Trump supporters are claiming. Pennsylvania has recorded 6,760,137 votes and 9,091,371 registered voters. Nevada counted 1,280,639 votes and 1,821,864 registered voters, while Arizona tallied 3,354,572 votes and 4,281,152 eligible voters.

There is no evidence of a perceived suspiciously high voter turnout being tantamount to election fraud.

Joscha Weber Bonn 9577
Joscha Weber Editor and fact-checker focusing on separating facts from fiction and uncovering disinformation.@joschaweber