Fact Check

Did Pennsylvania Record Many More Mail-In Votes than Ballots Requested?

A repeated election fraud claim by Trump about the number of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania bears no relationship to reality.

Published Nov 27, 2020

Stickers that read "I Voted By Mail" sit on a table waiting to be stuffed into envelopes by absentee ballot election workers  at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, NC on September 4, 2020. - The US election is officially open: North Carolina on September 4, 2020 launched vote-by-mail operations for the November 3 contest between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, which is getting uglier by the day.
Worries about the unabated spread of the coronavirus are expected to prompt a major increase in the number of ballots cast by mail, as Americans avoid polling stations. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo by LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images) (LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)
Image Via LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images
The number of mail-in votes recorded in Pennsylvania during the 2020 election was much greater than the number of mail-in ballots requested.

One of the many pieces of misinformation repeated by President Donald Trump and his legal team, in an effort to dispute the results of Trump's 2020 election loss to Joe Biden, was the claim that the number of mail-in votes recorded in Pennsylvania greatly exceeded the number of mail-in ballots requested:

Pennsylvania reports having mailed out 1,823,148 ballots, of which 1,462,302 were returned. Yet total mail-in voters number 2,589,242? From where did the extra 1,126,940 votes come?

This claim was egregiously wrong, however.

The 1.8 million figure touted by Trump erroneously represents either:

1) The number of mail-in ballots that Pennsylvania reported had been requested for the June 2020 primary election (not the general election held several months later).

2) The number of mail-in ballots that Pennsylvania reported had been requested by persons registered as Democrats as of the voter registration deadline of Oct. 19. That figure did not include the hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots that were also requested by persons registered as Republicans (or persons registered with third parties affiliations or with no party affiliation) as of that date:

The deadline for requesting mail-in ballots was several days later (Oct. 27), and by then
over 3 million mail-in ballots were requested, of which over 2.6 million were ultimately returned by the specified deadline for ballot counting:

The numbers reiterated by Trump and his supporters in an attempt to prove election fraud in Pennsylvania bore no relationship to the total of mail-in votes recorded in that state and were not proof of any type of malfeasance or major error in vote-counting.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994 as a creative outgrowth of his wide-ranging interests in a variety of subjects (particularly folklo ... read more