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An election worker looks at a ballot during a Cobb County hand recount of presidential votes at the Miller Park Event Center in Marietta, Ga. (John Amis for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via AP) An election worker looks at a ballot during a Cobb County hand recount of presidential votes at the Miller Park Event Center in Marietta, Ga. (John Amis for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via AP)

An election worker looks at a ballot during a Cobb County hand recount of presidential votes at the Miller Park Event Center in Marietta, Ga. (John Amis for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via AP)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg November 23, 2020

Trump's Pants on Fire claim about votes exceeding voters in swing states

If Your Time is short

  • In Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the number of registered voters greatly exceeds the number of votes cast.

  • States use voter databases to prevent any voter from voting twice.

  • Trump’s lawyers have lost before multiple judges due to the lack of any evidence of double-voting.

In a late-night tweet, President Donald Trump highlighted an election statistic that he thought ought to raise eyebrows.

"In certain swing states, there were more votes than people who voted, and in big numbers," Trump tweeted at 11:37 p.m. ET Nov. 22. "Does that not really matter?"

There is no reading of this claim that makes it accurate.

Trump might be recycling the inaccurate claim that in pivotal states, there were more votes than registered voters. Charges of that sort circulated quickly right after Election Day, and they were simply wrong.

Trump didn’t specify which states he had in mind — and our request for details from the White House and the Trump campaign went unanswered. So we focused on the states where Trump’s lawyers have most aggressively challenged results: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In each of those, there are far more registered voters than votes cast. In Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the difference is more than 2 million people in each state. At 387,612, Wisconsin has the narrowest gap, but that doesn’t include same-day registrations, so the exact number will change.

In any event, the number of registered voters greatly exceeds the number of votes counted.

Featured Fact-check

Trump’s tweet could also be interpreted as him saying large numbers of people voted twice — once by mail, and once in person. But there is no evidence of that happening "in big numbers" either.

The National Association of Secretaries of State tracks each state’s approach to ensuring one voter cannot cast two ballots. Basically, it all comes down to software that links votes to voters, no matter how a ballot comes in.

"States have databases that record the receipt of a ballot from a voter and mark that voter as having voted," said Philip Stark, University of California-Berkeley election security researcher. "If you vote by mail and your ballot was received, you would not be permitted to cast a vote in person at the polls; you would be marked as having voted already."

There have been instances when voters show up to vote in person before their mailed ballot arrives. The same voter database process works that direction, too. The voter’s appearance at the polling station is recorded and if a mailed ballot appears, it is saved, but not counted.

Our ruling

Trump said that in key swing states, there were more votes than people voting, "in big numbers."

There is zero proof. If he meant there were more votes cast than registered voters, election data show the opposite. In the six key states we examined, there were between several hundred thousand and 2 million more registered voters than votes cast.

If he meant that there was a lot of double voting, his lawyers have provided no evidence to back that up. States use careful systems to prevent that from taking place.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

 

Our Sources

Donald Trump, tweet, Nov. 22, 2020

PolitiFact, No, Wisconsin doesn’t have more ballots cast than registered voters, Nov. 4, 2020

David Liep’s Atlas of U.S. presidential elections, 2020 presidential election data by state, accessed Nov. 23, 2020

Wisconsin Elections Commission, Voter registration statistics, Nov. 1, 2020

Michigan Office of Secretary of State, MICHIGAN VOTER REGISTRATION - October 2020, accessed Nov. 23, 2020

Nevada Secretary of State, Voter registration statistics, October 2020

Pennsylvania Department of State, Current registration statistics, accessed Nov. 23, 2020

Georgia Secretary of State, Voter registration statistics, accessed Nov. 23, 2020

Arizona Secretary of State, Voter registration statistics, accessed Nov. 23, 2020

National Association of Secretaries of State, Voting In-Person After Requesting an Absentee Ballot, October 2020

AP, States have checks in place to prevent voters from voting twice, Aug. 26, 2020

U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Inbound Ballot Process, accessed Nov. 23, 2020

Wall Street Journal, Federal Judge Dismisses Trump Campaign Lawsuit in Pennsylvania, Nov. 21, 2020

National Law Journal, Meet the Judges Ruling Against the Trump and GOP Post-Election Challenges, Nov. 13, 2020

Snopes, No, Wisconsin Did Not Count More Votes Than Registered Voters in 2020, Nov. 4, 2020

Email exchange, Philip B. Stark, professor of statistics and associate dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of California-Berkeley, Nov. 23, 2020

 

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Trump's Pants on Fire claim about votes exceeding voters in swing states

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