US election 2020: Five viral vote claims fact-checked

By Reality Check team
BBC News

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Image source, Getty Images

As President Trump continues to dispute the result of the US election, false or misleading posts have been spreading on social media about the vote.

Some have been amplified by President Trump and his team, who have called into question the integrity of the election without providing evidence.

We've checked some of the main claims.

Dead people can't vote: Michigan rumour debunked

Viral tweets alleged that dead people were casting votes in the key state of Michigan, adding to a Trump-led chorus of unproven "voter fraud" claims.

Michigan authorities have hit back, calling the rumours "misinformation" - and noting that votes from dead people are rejected.

The viral tweets supposedly identified people who had cast an absentee ballot despite being born at the turn of the century and having passed away.

One of the men in the posts seems to have been mixed up with his father, now deceased. The men had the same name and address, according to the Politifact website. Local officials in Michigan told the site that the son's ballot was erroneously attributed to the father on the official voting system.

We've seen other isolated cases of allegations of "dead people" voting - most also explained by family members with the same name, or technical hitches, such as voters being instructed to enter a dummy date of birth if they can't initially find their voter registration record online.

The rumours have been repeated by influential accounts, including those of the president's son Don Jr - who of course also shares a name with his father - and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.

No evidence for computer software glitch in Michigan

Posts are being widely shared online suggesting a glitch in the vote counting software used in Michigan led to thousands of ballots cast for Donald Trump being counted for Joe Biden.

The claims have made their way onto the president's Twitter - retweeting Republican Senator Ted Cruz suggesting there could be a problem with the software used across the state.

There was a problem in one county where votes were initially incorrectly reported for Mr Biden, which Michigan's Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said "was quickly identified and corrected".

She added the initial mistake was a human error, not a software error.

Viral posts currently circulating claim there could be the same issue in 47 other counties in Michigan where the same software is used.

Mrs Benson said: "There is no evidence this user error occurred elsewhere in the state."

'Sharpie' votes still count in Arizona

Another widespread rumour emerged during the count in the battleground state of Arizona.

Tweets alleged there was a scheme to discount votes in pro-Republican parts of the state by distributing Sharpie pens - permanent markers - for people to fill in their ballots.

In one widely circulated video, a woman describes how voting machines supposedly can't read ballots marked with this type of pen.

The person behind the camera says votes aren't being counted and that people are being forced to use Sharpie pens to skew the vote total.

This led to a surge of activity on social media, claims of voter fraud and that large numbers of votes from Trump supporters were being invalidated.

CNN reported that a group of protesters that gathered in Maricopa County in Arizona were "shouting about the sharpie social media misinformation."

But the claims are false.

Maricopa County officials said Sharpies do not invalidate ballots.

The Arizona secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, confirmed on Twitter that if you voted in person "your ballot will be counted, no matter what kind of pen you used (even a Sharpie)!".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Ms Hobbs later told CNN "even if the machines can't read them for some reason, a marker bled through to the other side, we have ways to count them. They're going to be counted. There is absolutely no merit to saying that this was some conspiracy to invalidate Republican ballots."

Erroneous Michigan vote map

A map of voting in Michigan from the election night - which shows a sudden increase of around 130,000 votes for Joe Biden, but none for Mr Trump - has gone viral on social media.

President Trump has tweeted the image, which is raising speculation about voter fraud.

It's commonplace that state authorities will add a big chunk of votes to a tally at once.

But social media users were questioning why Mr Trump didn't have any votes added to his tally in this particular update.

The explanation is simple - it was a data entry error that was later corrected.

Decision Desk, the election monitoring website which created the map, said: "It was a simple error from a file created by the state that we ingested… the state noticed the error and produced an updated count."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ballot challengers trying to get into a count in Detroit, Michigan

The spokesperson added: "This sort of thing can happen on election night and we expect other vote tabulators in Michigan experienced this error and corrected in real-time like we did."

Twitter has added labels to the tweets that raised suspicions, saying: "Some or all of the content shared in this tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process."

Matt Mackowiak, the user whose post was picked up by Mr Trump, has deleted the tweet and apologised - although the image remains widely shared elsewhere.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

In the early hours of Wednesday, the map was propelled by supporters of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon and to a wider audience by conservative influencers online.

When we contacted Michigan's Bureau of Elections, they said they didn't have a comment on the data discrepancy, but said the results were at this stage "unofficial" and not the final count.

Wisconsin did not have more ballots than registered voters

There have been widespread false claims that more people in Wisconsin voted than were registered.

A user tweeted: "BREAKING: Wisconsin has more votes than people who are registered to vote. Total number of registered voters: 3,129,000. Total number of votes cast: 3,239,920. This is direct evidence of fraud."

However, this number of registered voters is outdated - the latest figure as of 1 November is 3,684,726.

That tweet has now been deleted, but people on Facebook and Twitter continue to share a screenshot of the post.

Voter turnout for Wisconsin is significantly higher at this election than in previous years.

The state also allows people to register to vote on election day itself, which means the overall number of registered voters could be even higher than the current reported figure.