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Fact check: Biden vote spikes and county recount do not prove Democrats are trying to steal the election in Michigan and Wisconsin

Social media users are sharing an article which cites examples of two large spikes in Biden votes, a county recount and late mail-in voting to prove that Democrats are trying to steal the election in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Although the details surrounding the Pennsylvania mail-in vote example are correct, the other claims are presented inaccurately: the spikes were due to an administrative error and a dump of votes favouring Biden respectively, and the recount was due to a mismatch in vote totals, rather than political factors.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The article by The Federalist (here) has been shared thousands of times on Facebook (here , here , here , here) .

The article makes several claims: in Michigan and Wisconsin, Biden got 100% of votes in big overnight vote dumps but Trump strangely got none; Antrim County, Michigan, announced a suspicious recount after an apparent Democrat win in a previously Republican county gained national attention; and Pennsylvania will count indisputably late mail-in ballots even if they have no postmark.

Since Election Day on Nov. 3, U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Democrats of fraud, without giving evidence, and vowed to fight states in court. At the time of writing, the Trump campaign had demanded a Wisconsin recount as well as lawsuits in Michigan and Pennsylvania to stop vote counting (here) .

138,339 VOTES IN MICHIGAN

The article claims that Biden received 138,339 votes overnight in Michigan, while Trump got none.

Several social media users pointed out the jump in votes (archive.is/nQzbT , archive.is/bUjJb), including President Trump (here) . The tweets showed screenshots of the change in vote tallies on the elections map by Decision Desk HQ, an election data service (results.decisiondeskhq.com/) , where Biden’s count jumped from 1,992,356 to 2,130,695 while Trump’s tally stayed at 2,200,902.

However, Decision Desk HQ explained in a Twitter thread that the jump in votes was as a result of a “clerical error” in Shiawassee County (here).

Abigail Bowen, Shiawassee County elections clerk, told New York Times reporter Jack Nicas that an extra 0 was typed in, meaning Biden’s unofficial tally was reported as 153,710 instead of 15,371 (here) . Caroline Wilson, county clerk for Shiawasee also gave the same explanation to AFP (here) .

Decision Desk HQ has updated its data to show that Biden received 15,371 votes in Shiawassee (here) .

This claim was also debunked by other fact-checkers, including Politifact (here), FactCheck.org (here) .

The Federalist article acknowledges Politifact’s fact check, explaining that according to a spokesperson for Decision Desk HK this was a “data error”. However, the Federalist still suggests the incident was “either a typo or an incredibly clumsy attempt to boost Biden’s vote count.”

ANTRIM COUNTY

The Federalist claims, “There was also something suspicious about the vote reporting in Antrim County, Michigan, where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 30 points in 2016. Initial vote totals there showed Biden ahead of Trump by 29 points, a result that can’t possibly be accurate, as plenty of journalists noted.”

The article says that “after these strange results” election officials in Antrim county said they were investigating what they called “skewed” results.

A release on the Antrim County Facebook page did announce that the Antrim County Clerk, Sheryl Guy, “became aware of apparently skewed results in the Unofficial Election Result tabulations” and they had since been reviewing the results (here) .

A later post clarified that the reason for the review was that “vote totals counted by the election software did not match the printed tabulator tapes, which official results are based upon”. It said as a result the printed tabulator tapes from each precinct would be counted manually and revised unofficial results would be posted (here) .

A spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State told Reuters via email that what happened in Antrim was a simple error, as outlined by the Facebook post from the county.

WISCONSIN

The Federalist article also says that there was “another mysterious all-Biden vote dump” in Wisconsin, claiming that Biden received all of the overnight vote dump, while Trump got none of those votes. It supports this claim with a tweet of two graphs that were made by data analysis website FiveThirtyEight , which shows a jumps in the Biden vote in Wisconsin just before 6am on Nov. 4 (here) .

A spokesperson for FiveThirtyEight explained to Reuters via email that the jumps were due to counties releasing large batch of results all at once.

At 8:27 a.m. EST on Nov. 4, Maggie Koerth posted the Wisconsin graph showing the jump in Biden votes on the FiveThirtyEight live blog (here), explaining, “Biden was down in Wisconsin before the Milwaukee absentee results came in early this morning. The boost pushed him up past Trump, but the race in this state is still very, very tight.”

FiveThirtyEight told Reuters that it is not true that Biden received all the votes in the overnight dump: “these batches were NOT 100% Biden votes; behind the blue line, there is also a red line representing the thousands of votes Trump gained. There are also counter examples, where Trump’s line shoots up suddenly when a favorable batch of results are reported.”

PENNSYLVANIA MAIL-IN BALLOTS

Finally, the article claims that Pennsylvania will count “indisputably late mail-in ballots as though they were received on Election Day – even if they have no postmark.”

On Oct. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a setback to Republicans by voting to keep in place a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which allowed mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day and received up to three days later to be counted (here) .

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and various Democratic officials and candidates who had asked for the court to protect voting rights during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Federalist article correctly cites the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, seen here , which says, “ballots received within this period that lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible, will be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day.”

VERDICT

Partly false. It is true that mail-in ballots will be counted in Pennsylvania up to three days after Election Day, provided they were posted by Election Day, including if they have no postmark. However, large spikes in Biden votes were due to an administrative error in Michigan and the inputting of Milwaukee absentee results in Wisconsin. The Antrim County recount was called because vote totals did not match.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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