Sun. Nov 29th, 2020


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Electoral College vs. the popular vote, explained

President Trump and President George W. Bush won the electoral vote during the election, but not the popular vote. How does the electoral college work?

The claim: Joe Biden underperformed Hillary Clinton in every major metro area except four in swing states run by Democrats, where the vote exceeded the number of registered voters

As states work to certify their vote counts, some are still searching for ways that President-elect Joe Biden’s win might not be legitimate. Claims that vote counts could not be accurate due to the sheer number of votes Biden received are circulating online.

Rasmussen Reports, a conservative-leaning pollster, shared an article by right-wing media group Gateway Pundit on Twitter, which was screenshotted and shared to Instagram and Facebook. Rasmussen’s tweet pulls a quote from the article.

“Biden underperformed Hillary Clinton in every major metro area around the country, save for Milwaukee, Detroit, Atlanta and Philadelphia … in these big cities in swing states run by Democrats … the vote even exceeded the number of registered voters,” the tweet reads.

The Gateway Pundit story is based on an article in conservative publication Townhall.

Erika Haas, a spokesperson for Townhall Media, told USA TODAY its story “jumped the gun” and has since been corrected.

Neither social media user who shared the screenshot nor Gateway Pundit responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Biden received more votes than Clinton in most major metro areas

Biden received significantly more votes than Clinton in most major metro areas.

USA TODAY aggregated official 2016 voting data and unofficial 2020 voting data from the country’s 10 largest cities — or the counties in which they’re located, if data by city was not available — plus Detroit, Milwaukee and Fulton County, where Atlanta is located. Biden received more votes than Clinton in 10 of those 13 locations. All data was aggregated Nov. 18.

According to unofficial counts, Biden outperformed Clinton in: 

  • Chicago by 19,613 votes,
  • Philadelphia by 20,150 votes
  • Milwaukee by 6,004 votes.

He also outperformed the 2016 presidential candidate in the counties that include: 

  • Houston (+210,279 votes)
  • San Antonio (+128,902 votes)
  • San Diego (+226,849 votes) 
  • Dallas (+137,496 votes)
  • San Jose (+103,574 votes)
  • Phoenix (+337,867 votes)
  • and Atlanta (+84,093 votes) are located, according to their unofficial counts.

The three cities where Biden appears to have underperformed Clinton are New York, Los Angeles and Detroit, one of the cities in which the post lists Biden as allegedly overperforming.

It’s worth noting, though, that two of those states are still counting ballots. The New York Times reported that New York state could have roughly 2 million ballots left to count. In Los Angeles County, roughly 66,245 ballots remained to be counted as of Nov. 17, the last time the county updated the Secretary of State. It’s too early to determine whether Clinton truly outperformed Biden in those locations.

A similar finding

National Review, a conservative magazine, reached the same conclusion. It analyzed the 36 largest cities where Biden beat Trump by at least 10,000 votes, as measured by countywide votes, excluding California and New York because the states are “counting votes so slowly” they could not yet be compared.

National Review cited data from, which aggregates official election results, and determined that Biden improved his margin of victory compared to Clinton in 31 of 36 urban counties.

“If you are still looking for proof that Joe Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election, nearly two weeks after Election Day, you will need to do better than this,” National Review wrote.

Who runs those states?

And, the swing states referenced in the post are not all run by Democrats.

Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania have Democrat governors, but Republican state legislatures, according to Ballotpedia.

Georgia has a Republican governor and state legislature.

No evidence votes exceeded number of registered voters in swing states

There’s no evidence that swing states had more than 100% voter turnout.

USA TODAY debunked that claim after determining that it originated from outdated data on the website World Population Review. Prior to Nov. 4, World Population Review’s data showed voter registration figures that had not been updated since at least Aug. 7.

More: Fact check: States don’t have more than 100% voter turnout in an election

A search of key states’ reported registration data found that swing states’ voter turnout did not exceed registration. World Population Review updated its data Nov. 4, which approximately mirrors each state’s actual registration totals, USA TODAY reported. It is unclear from where the table’s creators pulled the projected vote totals, which are higher than several states’ Nov. 6 reports of ballots cast.

A Georgia county was thrust into the spotlight for similar accusations, but USA TODAY determined the discrepancy in votes were not due to extra votes but rather a number of ballots being printed twice, in English and Spanish, for language minority groups. The bilingual ballots are required under law.

Our rating: False

We rate the claim that Biden underperformed Hillary Clinton in the country’s major metro areas as FALSE because it was not supported by our research. The claims that the four swing states listed are led by Democrats and that votes exceeded the number of voters registered in those states are also false. 

Our fact-check sources:

  • Rasmussen Reports’ Twitter, Nov. 15
  • U.S. Census Bureau, City and Town Population Totals: 2010-2019
  • New York Times, Nov. 18, Why New York Again Trails Almost All States in Counting Votes
  • California Secretary of State, retrieved Nov. 19, Estimated Unprocessed Ballots for the November 3, 2020, General Election
  • National Review, Nov. 16, No, Joe Biden Did Not Only Improve in Four Major Swing-State Cities
  • Ballotpedia
  • USA TODAY, Nov. 8, Fact check: States don’t have more than 100% voter turnout in an election
  • USA TODAY, Nov. 11, Fact check: Dual language ballots create confusion in Georgia’s Gwinnett County data
  • New York State Board of Elections, President and Vice-President Election Returns Nov. 8, 2016
  • New York City Board of Elections, retrieved Nov. 18, 2020 General UNOFFICIAL ELECTION NIGHT RESULTS
  • Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, 2016 General Election Votes Cast by Community
  • Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, 2020 General Election Votes Cast by Community
  • Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, 2016 General Election Proclamation/Official Summary Report
  • Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, retrieved Nov. 18, 2020 General Election Unofficial Summary Report
  • Harris County Elections Administrator, Cumulative Report – Official – General and Special Elections – November 8, 2016
  • Harris County Elections Administrator, retrieved Nov. 18, November 3, 2020: General and Special Elections Official Election Results
  • Arizona Secretary of State, State of Arizona Official Canvass, 2016 General Election, by County
  • Arizona Secretary of State, retrieved Nov. 18, 2020 Election Unofficial Results by County
  • Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, 2016 General
  • Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, retrieved Nov. 18, Unofficial 2020 General Election Results
  • Bexar County, Bexar County General Election, November 8, 2016
  • Bexar County, retrieved Nov. 18, Certified Summary Results Report: Joint General, Special, Charter and Bond Election, November 3, 2020
  • San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Presidential General Election Official Results 2016
  • San Diego County Registrar of Voters, retrieved Nov. 18, November 3, 2020 Presidential Election Unofficial Election Results
  • Email with City of San Diego spokesperson Michael Vu
  • Dallas County Elections Administrator, Official Final Cumulative Results 2016
  • Dallas County Elections Administrator, retrieved Nov. 18, Dallas County Canvass Report: General and Joint Election Unofficial Results, November 3, 2020
  • California Secretary of State, Statewide Summary by County for President 2016
  • California Secretary of State, retrieved Nov. 18, President – Santa Clara County Results, Unofficial Election Results
  • City of Detroit, Official General Election Votes: November 8, 2016
  • City of Detroit, retrieved Nov. 18, City of Detroit Unofficial Results
  • City of Milwaukee Election Commission, November 8, 2016 – Fall General Election Final Results
  • City of Milwaukee Election Commission, retrieved Nov. 18, Latest Election Results: November 3, 2020 – General Election
  • Fulton County, Nov. 2016 General Election Summary Report – Official
  • Fulton County, retrieved Nov. 18, RESULTS

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