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Lawsuit alleging voter roll problems in Detroit was dropped

November 5, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Local Fox affiliate reported voter registration problems in Detroit related to “fraud” in the 2020 election. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Fox 2 Detroit aired a news segment in December 2019 about a lawsuit alleging that Detroit had over 2,500 dead people on the voter rolls -- including one born in 1823 -- along with duplicate registrations and voter records with missing information. The lawsuit was dropped in June 2020 -- months before Election Day -- after election officials in Detroit took “remedial actions” by updating voter rolls.

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THE FACTS: While the winner of the U.S. presidential election is still unknown, President Donald Trump and his supporters have spread misinformation about votes that were legally cast in battleground states.

On social media, a photo surfaced of a Fox 2 Detroit news segment about a voter roll lawsuit that was eventually dismissed.

“Detroit Voter Roll Lawsuit - Filed by Public Interest Legal Foundation,” the graphic states.

“4,788 duplicate registrations, 32,519 more registered voters than eligible voters, 2,503 dead people registered, one voter born in 1823.”

Several social media users posted the graphic after Nov. 3, making it appear that the lawsuit was filed while votes for the presidential election were still being counted. The AP called Michigan for Joe Biden on Wednesday.

One Twitter post shared a photo of the graphic, without noting the date the segment aired.

“In Michigan alone…,” the Twitter user posted on Nov. 5. The now-deleted post had over 5,000 retweets.

“THE FRAUD KEEPS STACKING UP!,” wrote an Instagram user, who posted the graphic on Thursday. The post had over 24,000 likes.

Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative group, sued Detroit election officials for not properly maintaining voter lists. The Indiana-based group has taken legal action in a handful of places to try to force voter-roll pruning.

The lawsuit alleged Detroit officials failed to “reasonably maintain voter registration records under federal and Michigan law.” The lawsuit did not claim that people in Detroit cast votes through dead voters or otherwise committed voter fraud. 

However, the lawsuit was dropped after the organization found that election officials fixed voter rolls. “Defendants have taken action on the list of likely deceased registrants provided by the Plaintiff,” a court motion filed in June to dismiss the lawsuit stated. “Further, almost all of the duplicate registrations that Plaintiff brought to Defendants’ attention have been corrected.”

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Regarding allegations that a registrant was born in 1823, Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey said in a statement to local media that “The conclusion was that that was a typographical error.”

According to AP reporting, voter fraud cases involving dead people are isolated. Voter roll problems do not mean fraud.

The Associated Press reached out to Detroit election officials for comment and did not receive a response at the time of publication.

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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