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Fact Check: Michigan's rejection of ballots from dead voters is an example of the system working, not fraud

CNN logo CNN 8/18/2020 By Tara Subramaniam and Holmes Lybrand, CNN
a screenshot of a cell phone: This illustration photo shows a Virginia resident filling out an application to vote by mail ahead of the November Presidential election, on August 6, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images) © Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images This illustration photo shows a Virginia resident filling out an application to vote by mail ahead of the November Presidential election, on August 6, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

As the President continues his efforts to discredit voting by mail, he and his allies have pointed to several so-called examples of voter fraud. The latest favorite? More than 800 ballots that were received by mail from "dead voters" in Michigan's recent state-wide primary.

On Twitter Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. shared a tweet about a Breitbart article. The framing of the article and the tweet insinuated that hundreds of ballots were not legitimately cast and perpetuated the President's claim that voting by mail is rife with fraud.

Facts First: What happened in Michigan was not voter fraud but an example of the system working the way it's supposed to. Michigan's voter verification processes identified ballots from individuals who had died after submitting their ballot. Election officials did not count these ballots, in line with the state's policies.

A press release from Michigan's Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson noted that the 846 ballots rejected from deceased voters "[r]efers to voters who died after casting their absentee ballot but before Election Day."


Video: Trump slams mail-in voting while signing his mail-in ballot (CNN)

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This is not unusual for Michigan. Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state told the Detroit Free Press that in 2016, more than 1,780 ballots sent by mail were rejected because the voters who submitted them had since died.

In addition to the hundreds of ballots submitted by someone who later passed away, thousands of absentee ballots were invalidated because of signature problems or late arrival. Benson is advocating for legislative changes to address those issues in the general election.

For instance, she supports requiring clerks to contact any voter whose signature on the ballot does not match existing records. The voter would then have the opportunity to verify their signature in person.

Benson is also in favor of legislation that would allow election officials to count mail-in ballots up to two days after election day if they were postmarked by election day -- a practice members of the Trump campaign have taken issue with but is common in several other states.

The spin of what happened in Michigan from Trump Jr. and others is another example in the long line of false and misleading claims over mail-in voting. This narrative of widespread fraud in voting-by-mail -- heralded by the President -- includes patently phony claims that undocumented immigrants are sent ballots, that absentee and mail-in voting are substantially different, that foreign countries can easily interfere with the process, and much more.

A spokesperson for Trump Jr. did not return requests for comment.

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