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There were not more votes than voters in Pennsylvania

December 29, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: There were 205,000 more votes than voters in the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. This analysis is based on incomplete data, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.  

THE FACTS: A misleading claim about election results from a group of Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania is circulating widely on social media a week before Congress meets to reaffirm Joe Biden’s decisive presidential win.

The claim emerged in a release from the Republican state Rep. Frank Ryan and several others on Monday.

“A comparison of official county election results to the total number of voters who voted on Nov. 3, 2020, as recorded by the Department of State shows that 6,962,607 total ballots were reported as being cast, while DoS/SURE system records indicate that only 6,760,230 total voters actually voted,” the release said. 

The claim then spread to several right-wing websites and social media influencers, including Trump, whose tweet claiming Pennsylvania had 205,000 more votes than voters was retweeted 117,000 times.

However, these claims rely on incomplete data, according to Wanda Murren, communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of State, who called the lawmakers’ release “obvious misinformation.”

It was not immediately clear where the numbers cited in the release originated and Ryan did not respond to a call seeking comment on Tuesday. However, the apparent reference to SURE (Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors) in Pennsylvania points to state data on the voting history of registered voters, which some large counties have not finished uploading yet. 

“These counties, which include Philadelphia, Allegheny, Butler and Cambria, would account for a significant number of voters,” Murren told The Associated Press in an emailed statement. “The numbers certified by the counties, not the uploading of voter histories into the SURE system, determines the ultimate certification of an election by the secretary.”

The numbers certified by Pennsylvania counties in November show that more than 6.9 million voters cast ballots in the 2020 election, electing Biden the winner by more than 80,000 votes.

Social media users in recent weeks have also made similar claims that there were more votes counted than registered voters in battleground states and key cities

Those claims are easily debunked. In Pennsylvania, for example, there were nearly 7 million votes cast. The total number of registered voters in 2020 was just over 9 million.

“This obvious misinformation put forth by Rep. Ryan and others is the hallmark of so many of the claims made about this year’s presidential election,” Murren told the AP in an emailed statement. “When exposed to even the simplest examination, courts at every level have found these and similar conspiratorial claims to be wholly without basis.”


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: