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A truck arrives at Huntington Place in Detroit to drop off absentee ballots to be counted on Nov. 8, 2022. Former President Donald Trump made a false claim about absentee ballot issues in Detroit. (AP A truck arrives at Huntington Place in Detroit to drop off absentee ballots to be counted on Nov. 8, 2022. Former President Donald Trump made a false claim about absentee ballot issues in Detroit. (AP

A truck arrives at Huntington Place in Detroit to drop off absentee ballots to be counted on Nov. 8, 2022. Former President Donald Trump made a false claim about absentee ballot issues in Detroit. (AP

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher November 9, 2022

Detroit voters were not told at polls that they had already voted

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  • A computer glitch at some Detroit polling places wrongly signaled that ballots about to be given to some voters had already been issued as absentee ballots. The computer error did not mean the voters themselves had already cast absentee ballots.

  • Election workers were able to work around the errors, and all eligible voters were able to cast their ballots.

  • The Michigan secretary of state said the claim about voter disenfranchisement wasn’t true, and the Detroit Department of Elections issued a statement calling the computer problem “a harmless data error.”

On the afternoon of Election Day, former President Donald Trump suggested that problems at polling places in Michigan’s largest city, a Democratic stronghold, were preventing voters from casting their ballots — a claim that elections officials immediately rejected.

"The Absentee Ballot situation in Detroit is REALLY BAD," Trump wrote in a Nov. 8 post on Truth Social. "People are showing up to Vote only to be told, ‘sorry, you have already voted.’ This is happening in large numbers, elsewhere as well. Protest, Protest, Protest!" The post was also reshared widely across other social media platforms. 

An hour later, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson replied on Twitter to Trump’s claim, saying, "This isn’t true. Please don’t spread lies to foment or encourage political violence in our state. Or anywhere. Thanks."

In some Detroit precincts, computers used by election workers signaled that some ballots about to be given to voters had already been issued as absentee ballots. 

The computer error did not mean those voters had already voted.

"No voter was turned away," Michigan secretary of state spokesperson Jake Rollow told PolitiFact. "They weren’t told that they already voted absentee and they weren’t turned away." He said the glitch affected a small number of voters, though the exact number has not yet been determined.

Here’s how Rollow explained what happened:

A voter presented identification to an election worker, who entered that information into a laptop computer known as an electronic pollbook. 

The pollbook indicated that the person was registered to vote and had neither been issued nor had cast an absentee ballot. 

When the worker entered the number of the ballot to be given to the voter, the pollbook erroneously indicated that the ballot had already been issued absentee. 

To work around the problem, the election worker added a letter to the number on the ballot, so the pollbook would process the ballot. The voter was then given the ballot to cast.

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"In all circumstances, eligible voters were able to vote," the Michigan Department of State said in a statement on the night of Nov. 8.

The Detroit Department of Elections also issued a statement calling the problem "a harmless data error."

Matt Friedman, the department’s spokesperson, told PolitiFact the problem caused longer wait times in at least three precincts during the early morning hours, until the issue was resolved.

"We may not know how many voters and precincts this affected for a while because the system worked — the backup plan went into effect and voters voted as planned," he said.

We didn’t receive replies to our emails to Trump’s spokespeople.

Our ruling

Trump claimed that in Detroit, "People are showing up to Vote only to be told, ‘sorry, you have already voted.’" 

Election officials said a computer glitch wrongly signaled that ballots about to be given to some Detroit voters at the polls had already been issued as absentee. The computer error did not mean the voters themselves had already cast absentee ballots. 

Election officials said poll workers were able to work around the errors, and all eligible voters were able to cast their ballots.

We rate Trump’s claim False.

RELATED: Why days of ballot counting isn’t suspicious

RELATED: Social media post falsely claims 2022 election fraud because ‘mostly Democrats vote early’

RELATED: No, Maricopa vote tabulators didn’t lead to ballots with ‘no chain of custody’

Our Sources

Truth Social, Donald Trump post (archived here), Nov. 8, 2022

Twitter, Jocelyn Benson tweet, Nov. 8, 2022

Twitter, Michigan secretary of state tweet, Nov. 8, 2022

Twitter, Samuel J. Robinson tweet of Detroit Department of Elections statement, Nov. 8, 2022

FactCheck.org, "‘Harmless data error’ to blame for glitch at some Detroit polling places, contrary to Trump’s post," Nov. 8, 2022’

CNN, "Five 2022 election conspiracies, fact-checked," Nov. 8, 2022

Snopes, "Detroit officials say absentee ballot issue was harmless data error," Nov. 8, 2022

Interview, Michigan secretary of state spokesperson Jake Rollow, Nov. 8, 2022

Email, Detroit Department of Elections spokesperson Matt Friedman, Nov. 8, 2022

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Detroit voters were not told at polls that they had already voted

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