Dan O’Donnell writes that a new Legislative Audit Bureau report proves that Wisconsin’s presidential election was not held in accordance with state law
October 27, 2021
Perspective by Dan O’Donnell
The explosive revelations in the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau’s report on the 2020 presidential election only confirms what has been to most rational people apparent for months: Those tasked with administering the election willfully ignored and openly violated state law while doing so.
The Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) was downright derelict in its duty to fairly and impartially oversee an election run by city and county clerks and poll workers who were not properly trained and did not receive accurate, lawful guidance.
For instance, Wisconsin Statute 6.87(9) provides that “if a municipal clerk receives an absentee ballot with an improperly completed certificate or with no certificate, the clerk may return the ballot to the elector, inside the sealed envelope when an envelope is received, together with a new envelope if necessary, whenever time permits the elector to correct the defect and return the ballot.”
In direct violation of this law, WEC issued guidance to clerks in 2016 that allowed clerks to “cure” incorrect information on ballot certificates themselves. The Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) did not investigate the number of certificates that were cured by clerks, but still found a staggering number of incomplete ballots that, according to state law, should not have been counted.
Auditors reviewed 14,710 in 29 municipalities across the state, including nine of the 10 cities in which the highest numbers of absentee ballots were cast. Stunningly, the City of Madison refused to allow the Legislative Audit Bureau to physically handle its ballots. This raises significant questions about what the city, which held the obviously unlawful “Democracy in the Park” ballot harvesting events, is trying to conceal.
In spite of Madison’s refusal to comply with the investigation, the review of ballot certificates revealed that 1,022 of them (representing 6.9%) “had partial had partial witness addresses because they did not have one or more components of a witness address, such as a street name, municipality, state, and zip code.” 15 of them (0.1%) “did not have a witness address in its entirety,” while eight (less than 0.1%) “did not have a witness signature,” and three (less than 0.1%) “did not have a voter’s signature.”
While this does not at first blush sound like a major problem with incorrectly filled-out ballot certificates, when those numbers are extrapolated to the 1,963,954 total mail-in votes cast, it reveals a significant issue.
Using the LAB’s numbers, it may be reasonably estimated that across the state 135,512 absentee ballot certificates only had a partial witness address, 2,002 did not have a witness address at all, 1,068 did not have a witness signature, and 401 did not have a voter signature.
According to Wisconsin Statute 6.84(2), ballots that do not have complete voter and witness names, addresses, and signatures on their certificates “may not be counted” and “may not be included in the certified result of any election.”
If there were tens of thousands of votes that legally should not have been counted but were, it is obviously a major problem. However, the LAB could not determine the full extent of that problem because the City of Madison—which had one of the highest totals of absentee ballots returned in the state—refused to allow auditors to review its ballots.
The potential for fraud is obviously high when ballots are counted even though they lack legally required voter and witness information, but LAB’s audit makes clear that WEC is not especially interested in rooting out or even looking for fraud.
The multistate Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) system is designed to prevent vote fraud by allowing state election authorities such as WEC to see whether someone on their voter rolls has moved to, registered to vote in, or died in another state.
In the runup to the 2020 election, WEC never bothered to check for any of this. Interestingly, the only ERIC report WEC ran—in May, 2020—was for “eligible residents who are not registered to vote.” The implication is that WEC wanted as many people voting as possible…regardless of whether they were lawful voters or, well, even alive.
This is apparent in WEC’s refusal to properly administer new voter registration. Of the 957,977 people who registered to vote for the first time in 2020, 45,665 did not match Department of Transportation (DOT) driver’s license records.
63% of these mismatches were due to a different name on the voter registration than on the driver’s license, and while WEC’s staff indicated that a non-match could have occurred if, for example, an individual registered to vote as ‘Robert’ but was known as ‘Bob’ on a driver’s license, it is unclear why exactly the mismatch occurred because DOT does not provide WEC with any personally identifiable information.
“As a result, clerks are uncertain whether a non-match occurred because of only a slight difference in a given individual’s name, which may indicate little cause for concern, or a significant difference, which may indicate that an individual is attempting to register to vote by using another individual’s information,” LAB concluded, noting that “WEC’s staff indicated that no attempts were made to match the personally identifiable information provided by 13,800 individuals.”
This means that there were 45,665 people who voted after providing information on their new voter registration that did not match DOT records, and WEC—the agency responsible for stopping the very sort of fraud such mismatches may be strong evidence of—never bothered to even try to match information for 13,800 of them.
That is unconscionable and seems to indicate an agency that is actively avoiding its duty to find fraud because it simply doesn’t want to find fraud. How else could one explain the LAB’s finding that WEC simply ignored state law and did not obtain electronic signatures from DOT records to match with the signatures on voter registrations or ballots?
“Statutes require individuals who register online to vote to authorize WEC to obtain from DOT electronic copies of the signatures they provided when they obtained driver’s licenses or state identification cards,” LAB reported. “Statutes require WEC to obtain these signatures. However, we found that WEC’s most-recent agreement with DOT explicitly did not include the provision of these signatures.”
Without an ability to match signatures, how could WEC possibly check if the person whose driver’s license is on file with the DOT is the same one who has just registered to vote? Perhaps a better question might be “what is WEC afraid of finding if it did match signatures?”
In its audit, LAB proved to be far better at finding fraud than WEC—even though it, too, was not looking for it.
“We found that the names and dates of birth of the individuals associated with 24 of the 70 voter registration records that we identified by using our criteria matched similar information in 24 other records,” the audit discovered. “This suggests that the 24 individuals associated with these records had two active voter registration records.”
In addition to this potential evidence of double voting, LAB also found eight felons who voted and “11 individuals who died before November 3, 2020, likely voted in the General Election.”
Such potential fraud was made possible by an out-of-control rogue agency that repeatedly ignored Wisconsin statutes. As the MacIver Institute summarized:
- WEC violated state law by not issuing rules on how to train special voting deputies or election inspections.
- WEC told clerks they could go home on Election night and return the next day to finish counting, even though that is illegal.
- WEC told clerks they could relocate polling places within 30 days of the election, even though that is illegal.
- WEC failed to include current state law in its administrative rules on how to train municipal election workers. The rules have not been updated since 2016.
- WEC violated state law by not reporting the error rates for electronic voting equipment used in the Nov. 2020 election.
It also turned a blind eye to the rampant abuse of indefinite confinement by voters who used a false declaration to avoid showing a photo ID to vote. In 2020, a whopping 169,901 people declared themselves indefinitely confined for the first time (up from 50,000 total indefinitely confined voters the year before). 48,554 of those newly indefinitely confined voters did not place a valid ID on file with their local clerk and thus were able to get around the state’s Voter ID law.
While this would obviously raise the possibility of massive fraud, WEC never bothered to look into whether any of these 48,554 voters were who they said they were.
Why not? It is WEC’s job to investigate these sorts of issues and ensure that Wisconsin’s elections are both clean and fairly run, but through its repeated refusal to follow state law it has ensured only that it can never again be trusted.
The Wisconsin Senate has announced an investigation into LAB’s findings as well as why the City of Madison refused to allow its ballots to be examined and, frankly, it cannot come soon enough. Even though the LAB never looked into such obvious and odious schemes as Madison’s “Democracy in the Park” ballot harvesting operation and the takeover of Green Bay’s election operations by Facebook-funded partisans, the audit revealed enough evidence of widespread lawlessness to warrant a wholesale restructuring of how elections are run in this state.
Quite simply, LAB has proved that the Wisconsin Election Commission can no longer be allowed to so carelessly and lawlessly administer another election in this state.