The Badger Project

Eight Checks The State Uses to Prevent Voter Fraud

Such fraud is very rare, yet Wisconsin still takes many steps to prevent it.

By , The Badger Project - Oct 23rd, 2022 09:28 am
Vote here sign outside a Milwaukee polling place. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Vote here sign outside a Milwaukee polling place. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Even though voter fraud is rare, in Wisconsin and nationally, many checks exist to prevent and catch it here, whether it be accidental or intentional.

In the 2020 election, approximately 0.003% of the nearly 3.3 million ballots cast in Wisconsin were submitted illegally by felons not yet eligible to vote because they hadn’t completed their full sentences, according to the Associated Press. That’s the most common type of prohibited voting in Wisconsin, experts say. That number is also about the same amount of illegal votes cast by felons in the 2016 election, the AP noted. Former President Donald Trump won that election by about 23,000 votes.

In the wake of the 2020 election in Wisconsin, voter fraud charges have been filed against at least 24 people in 12 different counties, according to the AP. Of those, 16 were allegedly felons not yet eligible to vote. President Joe Biden won the state in the 2020 election by about 21,000 votes.

Because Wisconsin runs its elections at the municipal level, rather than county or state, it has one of the most decentralized election administration systems in the nation, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The state has about 1,850 municipalities.

The Badger Project talked to Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Riley Vetterkind, as well as Barry Burden, a political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center at UW-Madison, about the checks in place to deter and catch voter fraud in the state.

1. All voters are required to register

Residents may register to vote online at, by mail, at their municipal clerk’s office, or at their polling place on Election Day. Only voters with a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card can register online. To prove residency when registering by mail, at their municipal clerk’s office, or at the polls on Election Day, voters must bring an official document, like a bank statement or a state ID, that has their current address.

2. Photo ID is required to vote by mail, and absentee ballots require a witness

Voters who request an absentee ballot must be registered to vote. If you request a ballot online at, most voters will need to upload a copy of their photo ID if they haven’t done it previously, Vetterkind said.

Wisconsin also requires the filling out of absentee ballots be witnessed and signed by another person.

“It is not clear that this requirement is effective in inhibiting absentee ballot fraud, but it is an extra step that must be taken to cast an absentee ballot,” Burden said.

The state has online tools that let voters and election officials track ballots as they “wind their way through the system,” Burden said. “These tools are quite helpful for providing transparency and as a check on potential crimes such as theft of absentee ballots from mailboxes.”

3. Felons can’t legally vote until completing their entire sentence… Probation too

Safeguards are in place to prevent the most common form of prohibited voting — when a resident who is ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction attempts to cast a ballot. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is required by law to provide the commission with an updated list of people convicted of felonies on a continuous basis, as well as those who have completed their entire sentence and are eligible to vote again, Vetterkind said.

If a person who hasn’t completed their full felony sentence tried to register to vote on Election Day, they would most likely get flagged by an election worker. It’s not a foolproof system; sometimes individuals slip through, Vetterkind said. But those cases are usually discovered during a post-election audit which is mandated by state law.

This type of illegal voting usually isn’t intentional, Burden said.

“People who are on parole or probation from felony convictions are often unaware of election laws and assume that they are able to vote once their incarceration ends,” he said. “Their attempts to vote can sometimes be labeled as purposeful vote fraud, but they are typically misunderstandings of the law.”

4. Dead people can’t vote

The Wisconsin Elections Commission receives regular updates from the Vital Records office in the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, which issues death certificates, Vetterkind said. Deceased residents are removed from the voter list.

5. Potential vote fraud is investigated

If voter fraud is suspected, municipal clerks will alert their county district attorney’s office for investigation. The Wisconsin Elections Commission reports such cases to the Wisconsin State Legislature and posts them online for public viewing. The commission also checks to see if felons still serving their sentence have voted, in which case they would refer that case to law enforcement.

6. Voting equipment is double-checked

After an election, officials assess the performance of electronic voting equipment by auditing a random sampling of ballots. Compared to 2020, the Wisconsin Elections Commission will double the number of reporting units audited in 2022, from 5% to 10%, Vetterkind said. Reporting units consist of one or several wards.

During this process, election workers hand-count paper ballots. The total is compared to the election night voting system results. Audit materials are submitted to the Wisconsin Elections Commission for review, and any discrepancies are investigated, Vetterkind noted.

7. People can’t vote more than once

Wisconsin is part of a 33-state organization known as the Electronic Registration Information Center that provides reports on potential duplicate registration records in different states and flags registrants who might have died or moved, Vetterkind said.

The organization also detects when somebody tries to vote in more than one state.

“The system has become a source of controversy because it is not perfectly reliable in every case, but it is nonetheless a tool that allows the state to look into records that may need to be updated or purged,” Burden said. “Simply notifying voters that their records have been flagged can be a helpful alert in case another person was attempting voter registration fraud.”

8. Anyone can report suspected vote fraud

If a person suspects they’ve witnessed a form of voter fraud, they can report it to local law enforcement or they can file a sworn complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Vetterkind said. The public’s eyes serve as another layer of protection for the integrity of the election, he added.

Eight checks the state of Wisconsin uses to deter and catch voter fraud was originally published by The Badger Project.

One thought on “Eight Checks The State Uses to Prevent Voter Fraud”

  1. Thomas Sepllman says:

    Above is good but there is not any reason to Trust or Believe it

    Below is a rough outline of the story that needs to be written asap. It is critical that How voting work is available The system has gotten more complex especially since absentee voting has expanded and early voting is allowed. Also people see the “computer” and think that that is the control vs the paper ballots. It is critical that people know that Wisconsin audits a percent (10%?) of all wards by hand counting the ballots (at least that would be the only real audit) running them through the same machine would not be an audit. This must be front and center so people who are skeptical can be reassured by knowing that there are audits Would not hurt to have same day counts of 1 race ie ballots sorted and then each stack is counted Quick and eazy

    People can KNOW as I do for a number of reasons why the system as all human systems has glitches BUT as a whole is accurate VS those who do not know the details and therefore must BELIEVE someone else and the question is WHO will they believe??

    Dear folks The long story about voting is useful it still does not resolve clearly for all of us how it works and where it needs improvement

    The 2020 ELECTION in Wisconsin was NOT STOLEN and here is why.

    The Elements of voting

    People Those eligible to vote Registration Polling list Deletion from Polling list

    Election Districts Towns Villages Cities and (Wards) of cities. Districts for local officials and School Board Members and Judges and State Assemble State Senate Fed Congressional districts are made up of multiple Election Districts.

    Ballots – Paper Electronic

    Where to vote One place or Wards ???? and When to vote Early voting Absentee Voting Election day voting

    Poll Workers Poll watchers

    Counting machines and Counting the votes

    As we can see while the process seems to be simple, that simple process can become quite complex with all of the variables listed above.


    People who are over 18 and are not prohibited from voting. They are persons whose sentences are not completed and certain disabled individuals who are determined by a judge to be incompetent to make a decision.

    Before the first time they vote they must registrar to vote. They must have specific pieces of information about themselves that is presented to the person registering them to vote that is used to verify that they live where they claim to live and they are who they claim to be. Now there is an exception to this if a person is homeless and uses a public library address as their home address. There is a new issues and that is where individuals pay State Taxes but are literally nomads. They have a PO Box but are always on the move

    All of these registrations are combined and that creates the Polling List for the State and all the sub district in the State by where they live.

    Deletion from the Polling List happens most often from death There can be names on the Polling List that have died. Also moving will result in at least a change of address and may involve a whole new registration.


    Voting Districts may be a Village Town or City. The civil units of government that election are held for may be Village Town City County and State wide have the boundaries set by the boundaries of those entities. Each of these civil units of government may have more than one voting District. For all other Election districts the boundaries for those districts are set by the respective civil unit of government. An addendum can be added detailing all of the various Election Districts and how they are formed.


    A person in the employment of the Village or Town or City is responsible for creating the Ballots such that all elected offices that are up for an election in that respect Village Town or City are included upon the ballots. That person or another is responsible for ordering the number of ballots that are thought to be more than enough so that there is a ballot for each registered voter to be able to vote

    As an internal control and if this is not already done there should be an EXACT number of ballots and when the voting is all over an audit must show that all the ballots voted and all the ballots spoiled and all the ballots not returned MUST equal the number of ballots printed.

    Note there are a few “electronic” ballots where there is no paper ballot


    Absentee voting Paper Ballot is sent to a registered voter’s mailing address. The ballot can be returned in person to the Clerk or must be returned by mail. The ballot must be received by the clerk by the time the polls close at 8pm. The return envelope requires the voter’s signature and a witness’s signature and address and the date signed. If these are not filed out by the time the polls close the ballot is voided.

    Early voting Going to a “clerks” office and providing the required ID and getting a ballot for your Ward and marking the ballot and putting it in the ballot box (counting machine) or an envelope????

    Same day voting Going to the “polls”. Each address is linked to a WARD where you live and providing you ID and marking the ballot and putting the ballot into the counting machine that is linked to that WARD.


    It takes 4 poll workers for every 250 voters Long lines at just some voting places is just a sign that the election officials are discriminating against those who have to wait in those LONG LINES

    Poll workers have to confirm the ID and the person then on two sets of polling list find the person’s name and confirm the address and give the person a ballot. They also must help and confirm the voters information for all those who registrar for same day voting. The polls are usually open for 12 hours so they have to eat and have bathroom breaks as well.


    When the voter has marked their ballot the voter inserts their vote into the tabulator which does a quick check to confirm that if there is a restriction more votes than allowed for an office (usually 2 votes for the same office) or in primaries voters voting for someone in more than one party.

    The vote is cast once the machine takes in the ballot and does not reject it. If rejected a new ballot is issued and if the voter ask for help a poll worker may help them figure out what they did wrong.

    At the close of the poll the machine is set to print out the totals which are then publicly read out loud and recorded. Then various operations may happen where the machine will send the information to a county tabulator and then from the county to the State Tabulator. It is these processes that cause the most concern because there is nothing transparent about these electronic processes. It is this process that must be both explained and demonstrated to be open.

    There are a number of way for this to happen and one is in all close elections there is a physical counting of the ballots so that the machine total can be confirmed by the physical count of the ballots. Secondly all of the totals should be published so that the citizens can see the vote totals by ward and them by Village Town or City that make up the vote totals for all officials and issues on the ballot. These results must be published so that confidence is rebuilt in out voting system

    A second accounting can be That cards can be sent to some who have voted confirming that the voted and how they voted. If the card is not returned a telephone call to that voter to confirm that they voted and how they voted can be made. There will be a few who do not respond.


    Who is competent to vote Just because a person has a guardian does not automatically make them ineligible to vote That issue and the number of individuals involved is being resolved now. The chance that either party has an advantage here is very remote.

    Counting the early vote and the absentee vote before the polls close may allow the vote of someone who dies before the close of the polls to be counted. By providing that assurance the process is slowed significantly because there are hundreds of election workers on election day and only a few who may have to record the voter and then open the ballot envelops and then process the ballot and if the ballot is rejected place it aside so that all the valid votes are counted.

    We know this process can take up to a week which in very close elections causes a great deal of concern on the whole process when those who know KNOW exactly what they are doing by not allowing the voting counting process to begin as early so that the election result for any district will be known within 24 hours of the close of the polls.

    What Poll watchers are allowed to do on election day is a major issues and also the presence of police officers as well.

    Polling List and who is on them is a major contention now It happens that some people only vote every 4 years and then it might be 8 years That looks suspect to some people and they demand that those names be eliminated even though they live where it says they live. If they are removed with little to no notice then when they would go to vote they would not be allowed unless they went back home and got the necessary document to prove that they live where they do and have since they last voted.

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