Ethan Duran

Conservative Backed Website Spread Misleading Claims During Election

Designed to look like a news site, it published insinuations of voter fraud that were spread on social media.

By - Nov 12th, 2020 02:10 pm
Milwaukee City Wire screenshot. "False Statement" added.

Milwaukee City Wire screenshot. “False Statement” added.

A politically charged website posing as a local news outlet published a slew of misleading claims about Milwaukee’s voter turnout for the U.S. 2020 election on November 3rd. These claims were reposted by the host of a popular conservative radio show and spread across Milwaukeeans’ social media feeds.

The Milwaukee City Wire, one of 24 purported Wisconsin news sites owned by Delaware company Metric Media LLC, said that “seven City of Milwaukee voting wards reported more 2020 U.S. Presidential election votes than they had registered voters.” The statement was aggregated to a story on political strategist Jeffrey Lord’s personal website, which in turn was tweeted by conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity on November 4th.

The website later updated its numbers (the site states five wards instead of seven) but the story still bounced across other purported news sites and ended up in readers’ Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter feeds. Hannity’s tweet currently has over 21,000 likes and over 8,000 retweets.

Even former-governor Scott Walker got in on it. He tweeted a link to the bogus-news site and speculated about the same day voter registrations.

City Wire, and other metric media sites, come from businessman Brian Timpone, the New York Times reported. whose methods in his own discredited media site earned the nickname “pink slime journalism.” Thousands of algorithmically generated articles, often with the same handful of stock images, populate the website and appear to be randomly generated data dumps about donations and market changes. Wisconsin has been targeted for a number of these faux-local news sites. Examples include The Sconi and Green Bay Reporter.

Articles that aren’t randomly generated are pulled from political campaign statements or are fabricated to echo accusations and support agendas. Usually these articles have no named writers.

The City Wire states that wards 274, 273, 272, 277, 269, 234, and 312 all reported over 100% turnout for registered voters. This is untrue. According to data from the Milwaukee County Clerk website, none of these wards reported a voter turnout greater than those registered on November 3.

  • Ward 274 had 702 voters registered with 611 total ballots cast.
  • Ward 273 had 671 voters registered with 612 total ballots cast.
  • Ward 272 had 1190 voters registered with 1096 total ballots cast.
  • Ward 277 had 1520 voters registered with 1321 total ballots cast.
  • Ward 269 had 978 voters registered with 861 total ballots cast.
  • Ward 234 had 688 voters registered with 588 total ballots cast.
  • Ward 312 had 1029 voters registered with 951 total ballots cast.

One ward did have a turnout of over 100%. Ward 326 had four registered voters that cast ballots on November 3. A fifth person registered and voted that same day. The ward went for Donald Trump with a single vote.

In a press conference last week, Wisconsin Elections Commission director Meagan Wolfe explained, “Because Wisconsin voters can register on Election Day,” she said, “The numbers of votes could be more than registrations on file.”

“I really wish people would check the facts, share things like our press release,” said Wolfe. “I know it’s not as flashy as maybe other things you could share on social media but share the facts rather than speculation and rumors.”

Wolfe said that no irregularities were reported after ballots were counted. Likewise, the Elections Commission tweeted out that there are never more ballots than registered voters.

Metric Media LLC owns hundreds of news websites in states across the country with the same layout and randomly generated articles. The New York Times has compiled a list of sites the network owns, including 24 in Wisconsin.

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