CLAIM: There are 133 million registered voters in the United States so if President Donald Trump got 74 million votes, President-elect Joe Biden could not have received 81 million votes.
THE FACTS: The number of registered voters in the U.S. is much greater than 133 million. But false claims about the 2020 presidential election persist online, including the bogus allegation that vote tallies in the presidential race don’t add up because they exceed the total number of registered voters in the country. “Donald Trump got 74 million votes and There are 133 million registered voters in the USA,” reads a popular but inaccurate tweet that was shared thousands of times on both Twitter and Facebook. “If every single registered voter went out and voted there would only be 59 million votes left for Biden. How did he get 81 million votes?” The posts are false because they rely on an incorrect number of total registered voters. A survey of election officials from all over the country by the Election Assistance Commission found there were 211 million Americans on voter rolls ahead of the 2018 election. The 133 million figure shared on social media is also far lower than the more than 136 million ballots cast in the 2016 election. “The number of 133 million registered voters is plainly false,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who runs the election data site, U.S. Election Project. While experts all agree the 133 million figure is far too low for 2020, coming up with the precise number of American registered voters at a given moment is not straight forward. Each state manages its own voter rolls, and people are constantly registering, dying and moving to new states, leading to changes in the totals and duplications. Furthermore, states differ in how they manage their rolls. For example, some states have a category of registered voters who are marked as “inactive” and North Dakota does not have voter registration. Jonathan Robinson, lead research scientist at Catalist, which provides voter data and other services to civic and progressive organizations, said it is challenging to pinpoint the number of registered voters in the U.S. “These numbers are ever-evolving, there really isn’t one number,” Robinson said. Robinson estimates the number of registered voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election was somewhere between 195 million and 215 million, depending on how the data is analyzed and which suspected duplicate or ineligible voters were excluded. Brandi Travis, a spokesperson for the voter list vendor Aristotle, told the AP that the company has more than 215 million registered voters in its database. L2, another voter list vendor whose customers include the AP, estimated the number at eligible registrants at 200 million before the Nov. 3 election. Paul Westcott, L2 senior vice president, said that figure accounted for removing duplicate voters, people who have died and people who appeared on the rolls of more than one state due to a recent move. Most election researchers calculate voter turnout based on the number of eligible voters, rather than how many were registered to vote. The U.S. Elections Project estimates 239 million Americans were eligible to vote in the 2020 election based on their age, citizenship and criminal record, and that more than 159 million — or 67.7% — participated. According to Dec. 18 data from the AP, Biden received 81,281,888 votes and Trump received 74,223,251 votes.
— Jude Joffe-Block