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Fact check: Posts claiming more votes than residents in Milwaukee, Detroit, Lansing and Pittsburgh give incorrect numbers

Weeks after major news outlets called the 2020 presidential race for Joe Biden, posts circulating on social media allege that more votes were cast than there are residents in Milwaukee, Wis., Detroit, Mich., Lansing, Mich. and Pittsburgh, Pa. – four blue cities in battleground states that ultimately went to Biden. Offering accurate population estimates but erroneous vote counts, the posts falsely claim extensive voting irregularities despite the Justice Department finding no evidence of widespread fraud in last month’s election.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples of posts making the claim can be found here , here , and here .  

MILWAUKEE

The posts claim that the city of Milwaukee has 590,157 residents versus  640,768 votes cast there in the 2020 general election, meaning that more than 108% of the population voted. The city is in Milwaukee County, where Biden won 69.1% of the vote (here).  

Though the population count is the same as the July 2019 estimate provided here by the U.S. Census Bureau, the 640,768 vote count is not accurate.  

As reported here by the City of Milwaukee’s Election Commission, 247,695 voters cast ballots in the Nov. 3 general election. With 315,483 registered voters in the city, the turnout was 78.5%.  

Contrary to what the posts claim, 42% of Milwaukee residents voted in the election.

DETROIT

The posts suggest that Detroit, with 672,662 residents and 850,441 votes, had a 126% voter turnout rate. The city of Detroit is located in Wayne County, where Biden won 68.4% of the vote (here). 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 2019 estimate, the population of Detroit is 670,031 (here). It is possible that the post’s estimate comes from Data Commons, an online open data repository, which says here that Detroit’s 2018 population was 672,662.  

As for Detroit’s vote count, the 850,441 is wrong. Official election results provided here by the Detroit Department of Elections state that 257,619 out of 506,305 registered voters cast ballots, making voter turnout 50.9%. 

Accordingly, 38% of Detroit’s population voted in the 2020 general election.

LANSING

The posts falsely claim that votes in Lansing exceeded the city’s population by nearly 38,000. Lansing is mostly located in Ingham County, where Biden won 65.2% of the vote (here). 

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Lansing’s population to be 118,210 in July 2019 (here), on par with the posts’ 118,427 population figure that likely comes from Data Commons (here). 

The vote count of 156,295, however, is nearly triple the real number.

Robin Stites, Election Supervisor at the Lansing City Clerk’s Office, told Reuters via email that voter turnout in the City of Lansing for the Nov. 3 election was 54,045 out of 88,873 registered voters, equivalent to a 60.81% voter turnout rate.

Thus 46% of Lansing’s population voted in the 2020 general election.

PITTSBURGH

Lastly, the post claims that Pittsburgh had 691,434 votes cast, which is more than double its population. The city of Pittsburgh is in Allegheny County, where Biden won 59.4% of the vote (here).  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 2019 estimate (here), the population of Pittsburgh is 300,286. The posts’ similar figure of 301,048 matches that of Data Commons (here).   

There were 162,719 votes cast in Pittsburgh, not 691,434.

This information can be found on Allegheny County’s official election results page (here) by scrolling down to the “Reports” box on the page’s righthand column and downloading the Excel file “Detail XLS.” In the first tab, labeled “Registered Voters,” you can filter Column A to show only Pittsburgh voting districts (rows 587 through 988), and then find the sum of the cells in Column F.  

Similarly, the number of registered voters can be found by filtering to Pittsburgh voting districts and finding the sum of the cells in Column A, which equals 239,845. Accordingly, Pittsburgh experienced 67.84% voter turnout.

About 54% of Pittsburgh’s total population participated in the 2020 general election.

VERDICT

False. Though the posts provide accurate population estimates for Milwaukee, Detroit, Lansing and Pittsburgh, the vote counts are incorrect and several times higher than the actual numbers.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .    

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