A Detroit election worker seeks assistance while working on counting absentee ballots for the 2020 general election at TCF Center on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan (AFP / Jeff Kowalsky)

Five days before deadline, Trump claims Michigan cannot certify vote

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Donald Trump, seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election, tweeted that the state of Michigan cannot certify the ballot count. This is false; the state’s county canvassing boards had to certify their results by November 17, 2020 which they did, but final validation from the Board of State Canvassers is not due until November 23. In Wayne County, which includes Detroit, canvassers originally divided on party lines and did not certify the results, before reversing course at the last minute and endorsing the outcome.

“The Great State of Michigan, with votes being far greater than the number of people who voted, cannot certify the election. The Democrats cheated big time, and got caught,” President Trump wrote in a tweet soon shared tens of thousands of times on November 18.

Screenshot of a tweet taken on November 18, 2020

The president made a similar statement on the evening of November 17, claiming that Michigan had “refused to certify the election results”, which Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson dismissed as “wrong”.

Trump supporters shared his tweets alongside claims of systemic voter fraud in the November 3 election, an assertion which has been almost universally dismissed in courts due to lack of evidence. Federal and state election officials declared the election “the most secure in American history.”


While Trump made statements about the entire state of Michigan’s result certification process, he was in fact referring to a now outdated situation in a single county.

Board canvassers in Wayne County, the state’s most populous and home to the largely Democratic city of Detroit, whose residents are majority Black, found themselves in a deadlock on November 17 over result certification for their jurisdiction. 



The board’s four members were divided 2-2 along party lines, as the two Republicans voted against certification because of a discrepancy between the number of votes cast versus recorded participating voters.

Following outrage from Wayne County citizens, the Republicans changed course and the board unanimously voted to certify the results, thereby sending them to the Board of State Canvassers for final review.

Michigan’s 83 counties had until November 17 to certify their election results, and the Board of State Canvassers now has until November 23 to certify the entire Michigan election outcome.

“All counties have certified,” Michigan Department of State spokesman Jake Rollow told AFP by phone on November 18.

With more than 2.8 million votes, Biden won the Great Lakes state and its 16 Electoral College votes with 50.6 percent of the vote in a crucial state where Trump was victorious in 2016. Biden defeated Trump by more than 154,000 votes. The president received 47.9 percent of the popular vote.

AFP Fact Check has debunked other false claims about the vote in Michigan, including here and here as part of a broad effort to counter false and misleading information about the 2020 vote.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.

US Elections 2020