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Dave Boucher
By Dave Boucher February 16, 2021
Clara Hendrickson
By Clara Hendrickson February 16, 2021

Michigan Senate GOP leader Shirkey falsely claims dead people voted

If Your Time is short

  • Mike Shirkey repeated previously debunked claims that dead people voted in Michigan’s November general election. 

Michigan’s top elected Republican relied on an oft-repeated and inaccurate claim about dead voters to bolster his argument for changes in state election law.

In a Feb. 16 radio interview, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey  acknowledged that Biden won Michigan by over 154,000 votes, but said the state didn’t do enough to ensure election integrity.

"We do have some things that we need to address because it was a little too loose. Too many dead people voted and there was too much confusion at absentee counting boards," Shirkey claimed in the interview on WKHM.

At the start of this year’s legislative session, Shirkey said that election integrity would be a top priority for lawmakers. Lawmakers already introduced several bills aimed at increasing penalties for absentee voting violations and removing voters with unknown birthdates from state election rolls.

We asked Shirkey’s office for evidence to back his claim about dead people voting, but didn’t hear back.

The Secretary of State’s office has said it is "not aware of a single confirmed case showing that a ballot was actually cast on behalf of a deceased individual."

Claims circulating online that dead people voted in Michigan were found to be false.

One such claim included a list purporting to show thousands of dead voters in Wayne County who cast ballots in the November election. The list had a number of serious flaws. It contained voters who were not Wayne County residents, as well as voters who never received an absentee ballot. It also included at least one woman who’s still alive who cast an absentee ballot.

Michigan has mechanisms in place to maintain the integrity of its voter files. It is a member of the Electronic Registration Information Center, a multistate partnership that offers access to federal databases and technology that relies on Social Security Administration death records to flag deceased voters.

Featured Fact-check

The state also checks to ensure that absentee ballots cast by living people who die before Election Day are not counted. In the Nov. 3 election, clerks across Michigan rejected 3,469 absentee ballots cast by people who were alive when they returned their ballots but died before Election Day.

Clerical errors happen. "On rare occasions, a ballot received for a living voter may be recorded in a way that makes it appear as if the voter is dead," the Secretary of State’s office explains on its fact-check page.

One Facebook post seized on a clerical error to falsely claim that a dead voter in Detroit cast a ballot in the November election. The voter, William Bradley, told PolitiFact that he voted absentee and shares the same name and address as his deceased father. The ballot cast by Bradley was initially logged incorrectly as belonging to his deceased father, said Daniel Baxter, a consultant for the Detroit Department of Elections. Baxter told PolitiFact that no ballot for the father "was ever requested, received or counted."

Many Republican lawmakers have called for cleaning up outdated voter rolls to remove the names of ineligible voters who have moved out of state or died.

In 66 Michigan counties, the number of people on the registered voter rolls of October 2020 was greater than the number of 18-year-olds in the county, according to census estimates. That suggests that people who moved, died or are otherwise ineligible to vote are still listed as registered voters. Former President Donald Trump pointed to these counties as part of his campaign to cast doubt on the election results. But outdated voter rolls don’t support Shirkey’s claim that dead people voted.

While Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson received criticism for sending absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in Michigan, her office explained that "applications sent to registered voters who have died do not result in a ballot being sent to the voter, because the dead voter cannot return the application with a signature, let alone one that matches the signature the clerk has on file with their voter registration." 

Our ruling

Shirkey claimed that "too many dead people voted" in the Nov. 3 general election in Michigan. 

There’s no evidence to support Shirkey’s claim. The Secretary of State’s office said it’s not aware of a single confirmed case of ballots being cast behalf of a dead person. Similar claims have been debunked.

The state has ways to flag deceased voters, and clerks across the state were able to successfully identify thousands of voters who submitted absentee ballots but died before Election Day. Their ballots weren’t counted. 

We rate this claim False. 

Our Sources

WKHM, Shirkey interview, 2/16/21 

The Detroit Free Press, "List of alleged dead voters in Wayne County does not provide evidence of voter fraud," 11/6/20

Michigan Bureau of Elections, Election Security in Michigan, accessed 2/16/21 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, "Rejected ballot data from Nov. 3 election demonstrates integrity of election," 12/2/20

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Fact Checks, accessed 2/16/21

PolitiFact, "No, a dead voter named William Bradley didn’t vote in Detroit," 11/5/20

Michigan Voter Registration County By County 2020 

The Detroit Free Press, "Trump, Giuliani continue to peddle baseless election conspiracies about Michigan," 12/2/20

Jim Ananich, Democratic Senate Minority Leader, tweet, 2/16/21

MI Senate GOP, Shirkey issues statement regarding election, 12/14/20 

The Detroit Free Press, "Shirkey falsely claims US Capitol attack was staged, not carried out by Trump supporters," 2/9/21

Secretary of State’s office, Deceased voters' ballots are not counted, accessed 2/16/21

Michigan Senate GOP leader Shirkey falsely claims dead people voted

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