Fact Squad | Audit wouldn’t change outcome of Biden win in Michigan

Democrat Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes. An analysis of votes shows an audit could add to delays, but it would not change the outcome of the election. (Shutterstock)

Republicans seeking to delay Monday’s certification of Michigan’s election say more time is needed to investigate claims of irregularities and mismatched absentee counting board precincts in Detroit.

Courts have ruled, though, that no evidence of fraud has emerged in Michigan — and a Bridge Michigan analysis of vote tallies shows discrepancies in Detroit likely involve fewer than 500 votes in a state Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden won by more than 154,000.

That means an audit of the results, as Republicans have urged, would only delay the process rather than change the outcome and somehow uncover enough votes for President Donald Trump, Bridge’s analysis shows.

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In an interview Sunday on Fox, state House Speaker Lee Chatfield said it’s “very concerning” that 71 percent of Detroit’s absentee precincts were “out of balance,” meaning that the number of ballots cast didn’t match the number of envelopes recorded.

The remarks come one day after the Republican National Committee and Michigan Republican Party urged the state board of canvassers to delay certification by 14 days to audit Wayne County over the same issue.

But elections experts say the imbalances are typically the result of minor human mistakes, don’t significantly change vote tallies and are not indicative of fraud.

“Unbalanced precincts probably don’t indicate that *any* votes were discarded or invalid votes were cast, and their numbers are so small they wouldn’t even come close to affecting the outcome of the election,” University of Michigan law professor Sam Bagenstos wrote in a tweet Sunday.

In 2016, when a higher percentage of precincts were out of balance in Detroit, an audit by Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office concluded  a “multitude of human errors” led to discrepancies in Detroit, but there was “no evidence of pervasive voter fraud or … widespread equipment failure.”

In that election, Trump won Michigan by less than 11,000 votes and objected to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s bid for a recount, accusing her of creating an “electoral farce” that would “sow doubts regarding the legitimacy of the presidential election.

The issue

Despite gains in the suburbs and west Michigan, Biden’s path through victory runs through Detroit.

Biden defeated Trump by 154,188 votes statewide, according to unofficial tallies. He won Detroit by 221,254 votes. So Trump theoretically would win the state by 67,000 votes if every vote in Detroit is disqualified — a stunning, unprecedented and very likely illegal disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters.


Could “out of balance” precincts change the outcome?

All but impossible.

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers issued a report Nov. 17 that found  72 percent of all precincts in Detroit, 458 of 637, were balanced in November, a significant improvement from August and 2016 when 54 percent were balanced.

That percentage includes all in-person voting precincts, however, and 67 percent of the city’s voters, 166,000 voters, cast ballots by mail.

For absentee precincts alone, 40 of 134 were balanced or “explained” soon thereafter to remedy the discrepancy.

That means 70 percent of absentee precincts were unbalanced, a level that was roughly the same as in the August primary, when canvassers certified the election but implored Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to add resources for the November election to prevent a similar occurrence. 

The lack of progress prompted two Republican canvassers in Wayne County last week to unsuccessfully try to rescind their votes to certify. 

How many votes are at issue?

It’s not entirely clear, but likely about 400.

In all, 63 Detroit counting boards were off by about four votes or fewer, creating a discrepancy of about 139 votes. 

Thirty-one other Detroit absentee voter counting boards had problems with five votes or more, though officials did not specify how much more. 


At minimum, that would mean another 155 votes, bringing the total to 294. (Others have estimated the discrepancy at roughly 400 votes, while Mayor Mike Duggan estimated it at 357.)

Either way, that’s still a long way from 154,000 votes.

And even if every vote in the 31 counting boards that gave Biden the biggest wins was somehow disqualified (again, a stunning disenfranchisement), it still would not change the outcome.

Biden would still win the city by over 150,000 votes and the state by over 80,000 votes.

That’s still more than seven times Trump’s margin of victory in Michigan in 2016. (10,704 votes)

One more thing ...

Making the infinitesimally small possibility of mammoth fraud even more remote is the fact that Detroit turnout was virtually the same as it was in 2016, about 250,000 votes. 

In fact, Biden received about 1,000 fewer votes in Detroit than Democrat Hillary Clinton had in 2016; and Trump got 5,000 more votes in the city this year than in 2016.

The vote split was remarkably similar to trendlines in previous presidential elections, except Trump did better than both Republicans Mitt Romney and John McCain. And with a population that’s 79 percent African-American, it’s not a surprise that Biden got 94 percent of the vote in Detroit: nationally, according to exit polls, Black voters broke for Biden 87-12.

It’s also important to note that Detroit was far from the only city to have issues with imbalanced precincts, as absentee votes surged statewide.

In Livonia, a similar percentage of absentee counting boards were out of balance, 68 percent (30 of 44), while 47 percent were unbalanced in Dearborn (21 of 45) and 51 percent were in Canton Township (21 of 41).

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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middle of the mit
Sun, 11/22/2020 - 8:40pm

Why are we still allowing these people to get away with what they are still trying to get away with?

Where is the covid relief that the Senate leader and House Speaker said they went there to talk about? How does Mitch feel about that?


Well, the Biden team seem to be willing to give in to Mitch.


While Mitch is telling the Biden team to stop being a ......... Megyn Kelly?

Bi partisan ship. See that it is all di vi de d?

Some one smells oil............burning.....on top of water.


BOTH SIDES! really just republicans, but we can't be partisan.....so we have to give succor to those who succumb to outrageous conspiracy theories that liberals are actually smart, but also can't govern, but they are the whole owners of the new world order that will take over your conscience, force you into submission ....................but it will all be done by a bunch of disparate individuals, who have no clue about what they are doing.....because liberal arts educations..............and Government drones don't know anything...........so there is no reason to worry about those people taking anything away from you?

But..........Those are THE people you fear?

And your people are doing what during this?

The press isn't reporting on it? Instead they are doing both sides?

Well then.................

Sun, 11/22/2020 - 11:04pm

You realize you are doing the same thing......don't ya?

Give succor to leader Shirkey and Speaker Chatfield . What will it do? Will it do anything for those who are the electorate? NO?

What IS your obligation? Who and What do you serve?

I guess your readership should ask these questions. Because NO one else is going to. I am not against conservative ideas. I just want them realized amognst everyone. If a rule applies to me..........it applies to you EQUALLY.

Can't accept that? You are a fake.

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 10:47am

Lee, don't type buzzed. Dang that Dom must be strong. Never tried it. Too rich for me.

middle of the mit
Sat, 11/28/2020 - 4:07pm

Could you explain how I am doing the same? What I am doing is using conservative talking points to try to show them how outrageous they are. I posted links to dems caving into conservative demands, while conservatives are trying to again sabotage a second democratic President in a row. Do you consider that compromise? Because it seems that is what the press sees it as.

You don't let those in power lie about what they are doing, because they say the other side is doing the same thing, when they aren't. That's giving succor. If they went to talk about Covid and not the election, you ask them about both, and when they only have an answer to the election question? You call out the Covid lies. You don't go on to tell us how the other party is not allowing them to participate, especially when they have been allowed to and are participating, they just refuse to take any action. Then you call that out, not that they are being hampered. At some point? It has to stop.

I am also not against conservative ideas. If they are offered with sincerity and honesty and don't only help the already wealthy and powerful have more power and wealth. I am sorry. I no longer accept their fanciful claims that they are the only patriots and the rest of us are anti- American traitors. For simply not agreeing with them

If you see me doing stuff like that?

Then you can both sides me. Please don't be the press.

And yes, I did say they were being anti American for not wanting to honor the oath they took to accept an election. But that would be true. That is why they start alternative news sites, so they can get their "facts", and now they are leaving FOX for Newsmax.


How do you play fair when you have to fight against lies? Both sides it?


“After Biden won the presidency in part by claiming a larger share of college-educated suburban voters, some of his GOP foes see his early moves as an opportunity to brand him as an elitist president catering to the nation’s coastal professionals at the expense of its heartland laborers.”

Show me any policy the GOP has or has had that helps laborers..........and doesn't help the "elite" ...and I will stop making fun of them for being liars.





Here the elite propose that pharmacies should be re-imbursed if one of their paying patients dies of an overdose by the phama company so they could keep sales numbers up. So much for the patient that died, eh? These are the type of people and policies that make American Capitalism what it is. And it isn't labor groups doing it. It isn't SJW doing it. So who is behind it?

middle of the mit
Sat, 11/28/2020 - 9:31pm

Are you wearing a mask? Do you accept that you can go to an establishment and drink, then drive home, but also don't want cannabis customers to even just be able to have a LEGAL place to purchase those products, let alone a place where they could hang out.......because.............The Children?

Are those the laws you want applied equally? Should the Hatch Act be applied equally? Shouldn't everyone have the laws apply equally? Or is it just the laws that your ideology presents............that should be law?

It's a simple question. Will you answer it?

Marco Menezes
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 9:49am

Oh .....and Benghazi! Sorry, I meant to say ......Venezuela!

Hitting the fan
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 11:36am

Nothing compared to Perignongate!!!

Buzzed talking
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 7:32am

Don't listen to Chatfield, it's Trump's Dom Perignon talking.

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 8:37am

So are the SOS and the AG of Michigan going to charge them republicans that took money from trump to stop the certification of Michigan’s election?

That's Right!
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 10:50am

Well it does merit an investigation. We want the GOP to know the Democrats are the real party of Law and Order, not the lying GOP.

George Hagenauer
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 8:40am

How does an absentee ballot board become unbalanced? Isn't there always a discrepancy between absentee ballots let out and returned? It sounds like the statewide problems with voting are being solved and could be solved with some reasonable system changes.

Banana Republic
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 9:11am

In our house we all voted absentee in Wayne county. As soon as it was time to count the absentee votes, Trump declared victory and said stop the count. WTF?

It matters
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 9:05am

This article is misleading. Look at Antrim county where the “glitch” switch votes from Trump to Biden. That was a small county, imagine that “glitch” in Detroit. Every single mail
In vote has to be verified and that takes time, mail in voting makes fraud easy. The take away from this election is simple, the ONLY way to have a fair and secure election is with in person voting with government issued photo identification. Voter registration should be required 90 days before an election. Same day registration is a disaster and rife with potential fraud.

Joel Kurth
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 9:27am

Antrim County's clerk testified to a state House committee investiging allegations of fraud that she made a mistake that caused the glitch and she is horrified it has spawned conspiracy theories 

Bless you!
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 10:52am


middle of the mit
Wed, 11/25/2020 - 2:22am

Mr Kurth,
I don't understand it anymore than you. I used to be one of them..... and I still don't understand it.

It is in your heart.

That is all that can be said. Thank you all at Bridge.

I understand you feel my frustration? Imagine being related to it and there is no refuge. I love it up here. I just hate the politics, but it's either you hate those that aren't like you or you learn to get along. I like brook trout.


Opinions matter!
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 9:09am

Truth and facts are subjective in Faux News Trump world.

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 9:14am

Article 2, Section 1 of the U. S. Constitution states that the State legislatures are the only ones that can change the election rules. If anyone, such as a governor, election official, judge, or anyone else extended the time ballots would be accepted, or changed the requirement for a signature match, then they are in violation of the Constitution. Justice Alito has already warned PA to segregate all mail in ballots that arrived after some time that the legislature set. Trumps team will file suit against all states that changed rules by someone other than the legislature. The Supreme Court will invalidate all ballots that did not follow the rules set by the legislature. Talk disenfranchisement all you want, but there is a method to change the Constitution if you don’t like it. But for now, the rules are the rules.

Marco Menezes
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 10:40am

Not quite Arjay. The US Constitution at Article 2, Section 1 provides that “Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors.....” Here, and in other states, this legislative “direction” has taken the form of legislation spelling out how elections must be conducted. Michigan statutes [principally, MCL 168.31] delegate that rule-making authority to the Secretary of State. So, while the state legislature may Constitutionally claw that authority back, SCOTUS precedent has long held that it would require legislative action, subject to the Governor’s veto. Alito, Thomas and other so called “Textualists” on the high court may disagree, but their views are a stunning departure from precedent, that could fundamentally shift electoral power away from the people. Think of what such precipitous action, under these circumstances, would do to the credibility of the Supreme Court and the General perception of our system of government. Talk about your “Constitutional Crisis!”

Daniel Vandenberg
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 11:00am

Spot on. These people need to read the Constitution.They need to delay the certification long enough to investigate this . If Trump lost so be it. But let's let the investigation take place. Stop the steal.

Sorry Loser
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 11:38am

Perhaps YOU need to read the Constitution. You can't make laws after the fact.

Nick Ciaramitaro
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 10:40am

The rouse of an audit is simply an excuse to fail to do the job Michigan Canvassers are required to do and cast a pall on the election results. Michigan law allows for audits AFTER CERTIFICATION (and the Secretary of State is already planning one statewide). As to its effect on the results, MCL 168.31a, a law adopted by a Republican Legislature and signed into law makes clear that audits are not recounts and DO NOT effect the certified election results. Each county has already certified the results in thier county.

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 10:46am

GSA is too busy running Trump DC hotel to work on Biden transition? Trump gave us the blueprint to fix all the awful loopholes ASAP in the laws that for centuries relied on good faith actors. DUMP TRUMP to stop the bleeding, illegitimate, impeached, fired. What more??? Please listen to Chris Cristie Kreme!

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 10:53am

While you might be right Mike, just go ahead and audit to leave no doubt.

Bruce in the middle
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 11:01am

Thanks to Mike Wilkinson for a well-written article on the facts and the issues affecting the certification of the 2020 election. I subscribe to Bridge because I value the high quality information you provide. Thanks!

Mon, 11/23/2020 - 2:35pm

Most of us voters are not really asking for this election result to be changed but for the apparent whole fraudulent voting system to be investigated.