Did Michigan ‘Magically’ Find 138,339 Votes for Joe Biden?

A Facebook post featuring a screenshot of a tweet about Michigan election results reads as follows:

So while everyone was asleep and after everyone went home, Democrats in Michigan magically found a trove of 138,339 votes, and all 138,339 of those “votes” magically went to Biden? That doesn’t look suspicious at all.

The 138,339 votes for Biden cited in the above post were the result of a data error in a graphic from Decision Desk HQ, a credible, non-partisan election news and analysis source. 

A representative from Decision Desk HQ issued the following statement to BuzzFeed News about the clerical error: 

“It was a simple error from a file created by the state that we ingested,” the company said in a statement. “DDHQ does not correct/amend/adjust any state provided file. The state noticed the error and produced an updated count. This happens on election nights and we expect other vote tabulators in MI experienced this error and corrected in real-time as we did.”

The error, which has since been corrected, was picked up by others on Twitter as well. A tweet from Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak, shared this morning and since deleted, posted screenshots of the Decision Desk HQ’s election map results, which showed the apparent jump in votes for Biden, with the caption: “An update gives Biden 100% of new votes — 128k+.” 

A few hours later, Mackowiak said he deleted his original post and acknowledged the error: “This tweet was taken and share [sic] honestly. I have now learned the MI update referenced was a typo in one county. I have deleted the original tweet.”

The “typo in one county” was an error in Shiawassee County, which Decision Desk HQ had originally shown as having 153,710 Biden votes, instead of 15,371 Biden votes. 

What happened, in other words, was this: Decision Desk HQ imported into their model a piece of county-level data that had one extra zero in the Biden column, giving Biden an apparent huge boost in his Michigan numbers. When the error was discovered, it was edited out, and Biden’s numbers dropped back into the correct place.

As some Twitter users pointed out, this means that the side-by-side screenshots of the Decision Desk HQ data used to suggest that Biden had rocketed up while other candidates stayed in place are actually reversed. In the first screenshot Biden has 1,992,356 votes and in the second screenshot he has 2,130,695 votes, making it seem like there was a quick jump of 138,339 ballots in Biden’s favor. In reality, once Decision Desk HQ updated the Shiawassee County number, Biden’s numbers decreased 138,339 votes: 2,130,695 down to 1,992,356.

It’s important to stress, too, that all this was purely clerical—a data entry hiccup, not in ballot counting itself. No new ballots were “found.”

In Michigan, election officials were not permitted to count absentee votes until or on Election Day, so these absentee votes could take several days to process, according to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. President’s Trump’s earlier lead in Michigan did not account for the close to 3.26 million absentee votes in the state.

If you have a claim you would like to see us fact check, please send us an email at factcheck@thedispatch.com. If you would like to suggest a correction to this piece or any other Dispatch article, please email corrections@thedispatch.com.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 U.S. Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.

Photograph by Elaine Cromie/Getty Images.

Comments (22)
Join The Dispatch to participate in the comments.
Load More