False claims circulate about dead voters in Michigan
CLAIM: “Deceased people” cast ballots in Michigan’s Aug. 4 statewide primary election, and 8% of all votes cast were rejected because the voter was dead.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Michigan election authorities have not found any evidence votes were cast on behalf of dead people in the Aug. 4 election. Rather, a small portion of voters died after they voted absentee ahead of Election Day. These ballots were disqualified and represent 8% of all rejected absentee ballots, not 8% of all ballots cast.
THE FACTS: Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said last week that 10,694 absentee ballots were disqualified in the state’s Aug. 4 primary election. About 8% of those rejected ballots, 846, were rejected because the voters “died after casting their absentee ballot but before Election Day,” according to an Aug. 14 press release from Benson’s office,
“We get monthly updates from the Social Security Administration that allows us to update the qualified voter file with the list of everyone who is deceased,” Benson’s spokesperson Tracy Wimmer told The Associated Press.
Wimmer said that the voters in question were eligible to vote when they requested their absentee ballots but died in the interim period before Election Day. She said the fact that her office caught and rejected those ballots during the verification process “validates that the system works.”
Michigan election authorities begin mailing out absentee ballots 45 days ahead of Election Day to overseas voters and 40 days ahead to domestic voters. Voters can also request them in person at that time from their local clerk’s office.
In the November 2016 election, far fewer Michigan voters used absentee ballots compared to the 2020 August primary. But in 2016, an even larger number of absentee ballots — around 1700 — were disqualified because the voter had died in the interim before Election Day, according to Wimmer.
“There wasn’t evidence of fraud then, and there’s not evidence of fraud now,” Wimmer told the AP.
The facts about Michigan voting are being twisted on social media. “BREAKING: MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD IN MICHIGAN PRIMARY,” reads one popular but misleading Instagram post. “846 ballots cast of deceased people.”
Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a Breitbart article headlined, “Michigan Rejects 846 Mailed Ballots ‘Because the Voter Was Dead,’” and added the inaccurate claim, “Hey, it was only about 8% of the votes cast which I imagine are amateur numbers for the democrats in places like Michigan.”
In fact, the 846 ballots in question represent just 0.05% of the more than 1.6 million absentee ballots voters sent in, and an even smaller portion of all ballots cast. More than 2.5 million voters participated in the Aug. 4 Michigan primary.
Benson’s office broke down the reasons election authorities rejected other absentee ballots in the primary contest: 6,405 ballots arrived too late to be counted, 1,438 ballots had no signature, 1,111 ballots came from voters who had moved and 787 ballots had a signature that did not match the voter’s signature on file.
While some social media posts are trying to suggest these rejections are evidence of voter fraud, state laws require absentee ballots to be rejected on these grounds. “That’s evidence of us following the law -- quite the opposite,” Wimmer said.
Benson is calling for the state legislature to pass election reform legislation before the November general election that would result in fewer rejected absentee ballots. One proposed bill would allow clerks to follow up with voters whose signatures on their ballot envelope did not match the signature on file, and another would allow authorities to count ballots that arrive within two days of the election if they are postmarked by Election Day.
Under current state law in Michigan, absentee ballots must be received by the clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536