Nonpartisan State Election Review Finds No Widespread Fraud
Legislative Audit Bureau recommends changes to election laws.
A highly-anticipated nonpartisan report on Wisconsin’s 2020 election has found no widespread voter fraud or wrongdoing, but made dozens of recommendations for updating state policies and state laws related to elections.
The 168-page audit by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, initially ordered by the GOP-controlled Legislature in February, was released Friday morning. It found the Wisconsin Elections Commission didn’t follow some state laws in 2020, including things like failing to get electronic voter registration signatures from transportation officials, but that there weren’t widespread instances of people committing voter fraud or officials’ actions affecting large numbers of votes.
“The (audit bureau) has been well-respected as a nonpartisan agency by both sides of the aisle & by their colleagues around the US,” Cowles said in a subsequent tweet. “It’s my hope that we can now look at election law changes & agency accountability measures in a bipartisan manner based on these nonpartisan recommendations.”
Cowles said a public hearing on the review would be forthcoming at the state Capitol.
In a prepared statement, the Wisconsin Elections Commission lauded the review as one that makes clear “that vote totals in the 2020 election were accurate, that no processes were identified that could have changed the outcome, and that no evidence of widespread fraud of any type was discovered.” It also acknowledged the report highlights “opportunities to improve election processes and procedures, identifying several administrative issues worthy of review.”
“We’re gratified to see the report and to know that it really supports the hard-working and dedicated state and local elections officials across Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe.
The audit, which took several months to complete, included wide-ranging information gathering and analysis. Auditors:
- reviewed state training materials and Wisconsin Elections Commission guidance to local election officials on election administration.
- examined how voter registration data is maintained.
- looked into the use of electronic voting equipment and state-mandated equipment audits.
- analyzed thousands of absentee ballot certificates.
- looked at election-related complaints filed with state and local officials and how those complaints were handled.
The report makes 30 recommendations to Wisconsin Elections Commission staff and 18 recommendations to lawmakers for potential changes to state law.
Those recommendations include the Wisconsin Elections Commission updating its administrative rules related to clerk training and lawmakers introducing a bill that would require local governments to notify the elections commission when there is turnover in a clerk position.
Other proposed changes for state lawmakers to consider introducing include:
- A bill that would clarify whether municipal clerks themselves can correct errors in witness addresses or add missing witness address information.
- A bill that would clarify whether individuals are allowed to return absentee ballots to drop boxes.
- A bill that would specify the actions and responsibilities for consultants at polling places and central count locations on Election Day.
- A bill that would require materials related to the pre-election tests of electronic voting equipment to be retained for 22 months.
- A bill that would require the Wisconsin Elections Commission to conduct risk-limiting post-election audits.
In its prepared statement, the Wisconsin Elections Commission noted it wasn’t given early access to the audit, as is typical state policy, and argued the report contained a few inaccuracies. It said it will continue its review of the full document in detail to determine its response.
“We’re anxious to use this opportunity to look for ways to improve the administrative functions that are so critical to carrying out elections,” Wolfe said.
While Wisconsin Democrats have pushed back on all investigations of the 2020 election in Wisconsin — Republicans in the state have backed several — they have said they have faith in the integrity of the audit bureau’s work.
Other GOP-backed election investigation ongoing
The audit’s final report comes as another taxpayer-funded investigation of the 2020 election in Wisconsin continues. That Republican-backed investigation, spurred by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has a roughly $700,000 budget and is being led by former conservative state Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman.
The investigations come after Wisconsin has completed a series of routine state election audits and a presidential recount in the state’s two largest counties. None of those reviews have uncovered widespread fraud or wrongdoing. There have also been numerous Republican-backed lawsuits in the state, all of which have failed to result in findings of wrongdoing by election officials or voters.
Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes — a margin similar to several other razor-thin statewide elections in recent years.
Listen to the WPR report here.
Nonpartisan review of Wisconsin’s 2020 election finds no widespread fraud was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
- Wisconsin’s top election official to go “On the Issues,” Dec. 3 - Marquette University - Dec 1st, 2021
- Gableman Reveals Staff in Election Probe - Corri Hess - Dec 1st, 2021
- Op Ed: Sen. Ramthun Wants To Hijack Election - John Torinus - Nov 24th, 2021
- Democratic Legislators Refuse to Meet Privately With Gableman - Henry Redman - Nov 16th, 2021
- Kleefisch Files Suit Against Elections Commission - Laurel White - Nov 16th, 2021
- Gableman Says GOP Election Probe Stymied AG - Laurel White - Nov 11th, 2021
- Republicans Again Attack Wolfe, WEC - Henry Redman - Nov 10th, 2021
- Op Ed: Charges Against Election Officials Are Partisan Stunt - Jay Heck - Nov 7th, 2021
- Tony Evers and Josh Kaul Turn a Blind Eye to Election Integrity - Republican Party of Wisconsin - Nov 3rd, 2021
- WEC Commissioners to address audit findings Dec. 1 - Wisconsin Elections Commission - Nov 3rd, 2021
Read more about 2020 General Election here