After a 10-month review of the 2020 election in the Dairy State, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has compiled its findings — which set off alarm bells about the state’s massive election integrity shortcomings and reveal weaknesses the swing state must shore up before the next election.
The review, which WILL said it approached “without presumption as to what it would find,” included polling, surveys, an inspection of the law, interviews with elected officials, an analysis of almost 20,000 ballots and 29,000 absentee ballot envelopes, as well as a review of tens of thousands of documents obtained through more than 460 open records requests.
“It’s clear many Republicans, like Democrats before them, are convinced that there was a ‘Big Steal.’ And much of the legacy media is of the view that, since there is little or no evidence that Trump won the election, any effort to look into whether proper procedures were followed is just part of the baseless conspiracy-mongering that pushes ‘the Big Lie,’” WILL attorneys wrote in their review of the study’s findings. “But WILL’s review indicates the truth may lie between these two poles.”
While WILL’s work also showed some state election procedures and outcomes to be above bar — including no significant issues with voting machines and limited instances of ineligible people successfully voting — some findings were troubling. Here are the top takeaways.
1. Unlawful Votes Exceeded Biden’s Margin of Victory
Tens of thousands of Wisconsin votes cast in the 2020 election did not comply with state law, especially regarding ballot drop boxes and “indefinite confinement.”
As a recent audit by the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau showed, absentee ballot dropboxes were used prevalently at the behest of the Wisconsin Elections Commission in violation of state law. These dropboxes were connected to an extra 20,000 votes for now-President Joe Biden, with no noteworthy effect for then-President Donald Trump.
Additionally, more than a quarter of a million Wisconsinites acquired absentee ballots and didn’t have to show voter ID because they claimed to be “indefinitely confined” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That voting status, however, only applies to people who are confined due to “age, physical illness, or infirmity, or is disabled for an indefinite period,” meaning many of those more than 265,000 voters cast an absentee ballot illegally.
According to WILL, “54,259 ballots were cast by individuals who have never shown a voter ID in any election. 3,718 were cast from addresses that were on the 2019 Mover’s List. 7,747 failed their DMV check when they registered.”
2. Ineligible People Voted
While instances were limited, WILL’s review did reveal a number of times ineligible Wisconsinites voted or tried to vote, including 42 deceased people for whom ballots were cast but were rightly tossed out. WILL found 130 times where voters were flagged by Registration List Alerts as felons but cast a vote anyway, plus 129 times where people voted from a commercial address. All of these addresses were mailing centers or post offices, but it’s illegal in Wisconsin to register to vote with a P.O. box.
3. Voter Rolls Were Not Up to Date
Even though Wisconsin is required by both state and federal law to keep its voter rolls up to date, neither local clerks nor the Wisconsin Elections Commission took the necessary action to clean up incorrect registrations in the 2020 election. This means tens of thousands of active registrations were connected to out-of-date addresses.
More than 23,000 ballots came from voters who didn’t pass a check by the Department of Motor Vehicles, meaning a discrepancy in at least the name, address, or date of birth on file with the government agency. Additionally, more than 31,000 Dairy State voters were in the National Change of Address Database and thousands more were still on the Mover’s List.
4. Local Rules Were Inconsistent or Illegal
As Wisconsin voters have witnessed before, a lack of uniformity in election procedures means disparate treatment for various areas of the state, often manifesting in different treatment for rural red areas versus blue hubs.
This is true for the number of hours residents are able to vote absentee, but it’s especially true with so-called ballot “curing.” Although state law doesn’t allow the practice — whereby election officials, who aren’t authorized to do so, “fix” absentee ballots that have mistakes or are missing information — the Wisconsin Elections Commission gave it the green light. That means some municipalities followed the elections commission guidance and tampered with ballots while others simply followed the law and rejected ballots with errors.
Relatedly, far fewer absentee ballots were rejected in 2020 than in prior years.
“Due to the partisan split in absentee voting, WILL estimates that if absentee ballot rejection rates were similar to the rates in 2016, the final election margin would have narrowed by 6,000 votes — making a very close election even closer,” the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said.
Additionally, as one law enforcement investigation in Racine County found, the Wisconsin Elections Commission suspended special voting deputies from nursing homes, which are people appointed by municipal clerks or elections boards to conduct absentee voting at care facilities. Instead, the commission instructed nursing home staff to break the law by helping residents to vote, a task nobody is permitted to do except the residents’ families or special voting deputies. Law enforcement found an unusual spike in voting in at least one care facility, so the statewide suspension of the special voting deputies indicates that trend could have been pervasive.
5. ‘Zuckerbucks’ Made a Partisan Difference
WILL’s analysis also turned up the “Zuckerbucks” malfeasance that’s been documented extensively by The Federalist and Mollie Hemingway in her book “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections.”
The Center for Technology and Civic Life, a nonprofit bankrolled largely by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, doled out conditional private grants to government election offices disproportionately in Democrat-concentrated areas. As The Federalist has noted, there were strings attached to the grants, and the funds were used for Democrat voter outreach, designing and translating ballots, and staffing ballot harvesting, curing, and counting operations.
“When large numbers of voters question the authenticity of an election,” WILL said, those fears “need to be addressed.”
Read the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty’s recommended election reforms here.