Fact check: Explain the comparison between popular votes and provinces won in the 2020 election

Posts circulating on social media indicate the number of counties won and the number of votes President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden cast in the Nov. 3 election, indicating that the differences in the numbers evidence of fraud or irregularity in the election. This is misleading. Given provinces differ greatly in population size, as does the number of votes cast per country.

Reuters fact check. REUTERS

Examples are visible here. Most reruns include a snapshot of a tweet by conservative activist Charlie Kirk dated December 20, 2020 here , which has been retweeted 48,400 times since the publication of this fact test (archive version archive.vn/0phvm).

The report reads: “Barack Obama: – 69,000,000 votes – 873 provinces. Donald Trump: —75,000,000 votes —2497 counties. Joe Biden: —81,000,000 votes —477 provinces … And we must not question his “victory”. ”

Some posts with this claim referring to voter fraud or irregularities in the election read: ‘This is a mathematical impossibility !!!! Let me make it even clearer. THERE ARE NO 81 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE 477 COUNTRIES !!! ”(Here),“ Wake people up! This is the integrity of our US election. This is not about Democrat or Republican. This is about American’s future and current corruption !!! (here) and “You do not have to be good at math to see the scam.” (here)

The Biden and Trump data in the reports are consistent with the information reported by the Brookings Institute on November 7 (here). On December 8, the brainstorm updated the report to say Biden won 509 counties and Trump won 2,547 counties, according to “unofficial results from 99% of the counties”.

In 2008, Obama did get 69,498,516 votes, 52.93% of the popular vote (here), while he won only 28% of the counties (here).

The increase in votes, but the decrease in counties that Biden won compared to Obama’s election in 2008, is not a sign of voter fraud, as some posts lead and as this article intends to explain.

Rogers M. Smith, professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania (here), told Reuters in an email that “to focus on provinces won as an indication of the likely winner of the referendum, no do not make sense “, as they” vary greatly in population size “.

As outlined here by the U.S. Census Bureau, the population is not homogeneously distributed across the country. In 2017, more than half of the population in 3 142 provinces and country equivalents inhabited only 143 provinces.

As reported here by Reuters, the Republican base is concentrated in thousands of less populous provinces in the central part of the country, while the Democratic base is centered in the most populous cities, such as Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta.

If we look at results by country, for example, Biden got 71.04% of the vote in Los Angeles County, the most populous country with more than 10,039,107 people (here). He also led the vote in Cook County, Illinois (where Chicago is located here) and Harris County, Texas (where Houston is located here) the second and fourth most populous counties.

Smith said that “Biden has done well in virtually all of the most populous counties in the U.S., which, along with larger voters, explains why he defeated Donald Trump by more than 7 million votes, despite having far fewer provinces. has”.

Coincidentally, Gregory Huber, Professor of Political Science at Yale University (here) emailed Reuters that “while it is true that Biden won the majority in less than half of all provinces, he won votes in all provinces. conquered, and he won provinces where most people live. ”

Huber also noted that the presidential election is determined by votes cast in the Electoral College. This means that “it does not matter who wins a particular province”, because almost all states (but here Nebraska and Maine) allocate their state electoral votes to the winner of the referendum, and it becomes “in the provinces in the state, ”he added.

Technically, Americans vote for voters, not the candidates themselves. Voters are usually party loyalists who promise to support the candidate who gets the most votes in their state. Each voter represents one vote in the electoral college. More about the Electoral College and how it works can be read here and here.


In the 2020 election, more votes were cast for Biden and Trump than for previous candidates. They received 81,283,098 votes (51.3%) and 74,222,958 votes (46.8%), respectively, according to data from Edison Research reported here by Reuters.

These numbers reflect the record turnout of voters (here) during the election, marked by a sharp jump in turnout and early personal votes during the coronavirus pandemic (here). The election, estimated by Edison Research at about 66.9%, sets a new record.

Over the years, there has also been an increase in the voting population (VEP) (here), which also explains a higher turnout. In 2020, according to the U.S. election project, there were a total of 239,247,182 eligible people, a non-partisan website run by Michael McDonald of the University of Florida (www.electproject.org/2020g). By comparison, in 2016 there was a VEP of more than 230 million people (www.electproject.org/2016g). The evolution of the VEP in the United States is visible here).

These posts feed into a false narrative pushed by the Trump campaign of widespread voter fraud during the presidential election (here). In fact, U.S. election safety officials said the election was “the safest in U.S. history” ( here , here).


Missing context. It is misleading to correlate the number of votes cast with the number of provinces won, as provinces are very large and the electoral college votes of a state are generally cast for the popular voter in their state.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.