Not long before Christmas, Wisconsin’s leftist chief executive dumped a big lump of coal in the election-integrity stocking.
Democrat Gov. Tony Evers vetoed another round of bills passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, bills designed to check the far-left excesses of the 2020 Covid-plagued election.
One measure simply required absentee voters to apply for “indefinitely confined” status as opposed to determining their eligibility by a mere signature. In 2020, as Evers and his army of bureaucrats did everything within their power — and outside it — to lock down the state, more than 220,000 voters claimed they were “indefinitely confined,” a designation typically reserved for obstacles such as age, physical illness, infirmity, or disability.
According to a state Legislative Audit Bureau examination of the 2020 election, 169,901 voters claiming they were indefinitely confined had done so for the first time. They used Covid as their cover. Suffice to say, there were abuses.
Former Democrat State Sen. Patty Schachtner was actively campaigning for an Assembly seat at the time when she claimed she was “indefinitely confined” to her home. Facebook posts showed as much. Schachtner lost, but she joined nine other electors in casting Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes for Joe Biden following the contentious and controversial presidential election, conservative talk show host Dan O’Donnell reported at the time. O’Donnell reported on dozens of purportedly “confined” voters enjoying a less-than-cloistered life.
Evers has been extremely liberal with his veto pen, smashing the record number of vetoes that had stood for nearly a century. But the Democrat has been particularly severe on election-integrity reforms, killing slews of them since 2020.
The governor’s assault on election reforms leaves a key swing state vulnerable to the kind of assaults on fair and honest elections that rocked the 2020 contest. Election experts say other battleground states, particularly Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, have a long way to go to safeguard their elections as well.
“Election integrity should be on the top of every list of legislative priorities this session,” said Madeline Malisa, senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability.
More than half of the states now have laws on the books barring or restricting private funding for local election administration. The wave of reform legislation followed the “Zuckbucks” scandal of 2020. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, pumped $400 million into left-led nonprofits that handed out so-called “safe election” grants to local election offices across the country. But the brunt of the funding went to Democrat-led cities, especially in battleground states, where Democrat activists infiltrated election administration. Documents show in many cases the grant program was a privately funded get-out-the-vote campaign to drive swing-state Democrat voters.
While Wisconsin and Michigan are among the states that have passed bills prohibiting Zuckbucks-like private election grants, their Democrat governors vetoed the legislation.
Bypassing Evers, Wisconsin legislative Republicans passed a resolution putting the question up for referendum. Voters will decide this spring whether private funding will be allowed to continue in local election offices.
Voter-integrity advocates can take encouragement from Louisiana, where voters in October approved a similar ballot issue with nearly 73 percent support.
Malisa said Foundation for Government Accountability polling suggests Wisconsin’s vote in April may be as resounding.
Swing states Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania have each outlawed private money in local election administration.
Cluttered Voter Rolls
Arizona’s voter rolls are a mess. The state’s Democrat Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and his predecessor, Katie Hobbs, the governor of the swing state who came under fire for her handling of the 2020 presidential election, have failed to do critical voter list maintenance. More than a dozen Arizona counties appear to be in violation of Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which mandates states keep accurate and current voter rolls for elections for federal office.
“It is apparent that Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and his predecessor have failed to perform the necessary voter list maintenance required by state and federal law,” Arizona voter Scot Mussi said in an August press release from the Honest Elections Project.
Concerns about the clotted voter rolls are only heightened by a flood of illegal immigrants pouring into the southwest border state.
A report published last year by the Public Interest Legal Foundation found that at least 222 noncitizens had been removed from voter rolls in massive Maricopa County since 2015 — with the obvious implication being that those hundreds of noncitizens had been on the voter rolls previously. Nine of them, and perhaps more, had filled out ballots in federal elections.
“This is just more evidence that there is a problem that is not being adequately addressed,” J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s voting rights section, told The Washington Times.
AZ Free News reported last year that in two quarterly reports issued to the state legislature, the secretary of state’s office noted that it had received reports of more than 78,200 potentially invalid voters. The numbers included more than 1,300 individuals “who admitted to not being a citizen on a jury questionnaire”; and north of 23,600 people “who admitted to not being a resident of a county on a jury questionnaire.”
Biden claimed victory in the Granite State by 10,457 votes, or a fraction of a percentage point, of the 3.4 million ballots cast.
Democrats have pushed hard against citizenship identification. In Wisconsin, Evers recently vetoed a bill that would have required the state Department of Transportation to note on noncitizen ID cards that the identification is “not valid for voting purposes.”
Election-integrity advocates say the battle over ballot harvesting will be crucial this election year. The practice of mass vote collection for processing presents very real election-integrity and security concerns. Vote bundling has proved very effective for Democrats. California once allowed individuals to be paid per ballot collected and employers to encourage employees to drop off their ballots in the workplace.
As of last month, 33 states allow voters to authorize someone to return an absentee ballot on their behalf, with 10 limiting how many ballots the authorized representative may return, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Ballot security questions plagued the 2020 election, when an estimated 43 percent of voters cast mail-in ballots in the specter of Covid and the government lockdown policies that accompanied it. That was a huge spike from the 2016 and 2018 elections, which saw about a quarter of all voters mail in their ballots, according to a report by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Leftist organizations have for years clamored for expanded vote-by-mail campaigns. Covid gave them the cover to realize their dream, but the mass mail-in effort rightly raised election-integrity alarm bells.
“Mail-in or absentee ballots are the ones most susceptible to being stolen, altered, and forged, and to having the voters be pressured or coerced when voting, because they are the only type of ballots marked in an unsupervised, unobserved setting,” Heritage Foundation elections expert Hans von Spakovsky wrote in a column in late 2022.
With ballot harvesting and the expansion of mailed ballots, 2020 also saw the proliferation of absentee ballot drop boxes, many of them unmanned. While corrupt corporate media outlets have breathlessly defended the unsecured system of ballot collection, videos capturing late-night ballot drops in several communities raised eyebrows and serious questions about the integrity of the 2020 elections.
Many of those questions remain.
Only 37 percent of Americans think 2024’s elections will be “honest and open to rightful voters,” with 43 percent not so confident, according to a poll last fall by the Public Affairs Council/Morning Consult.
Encouragingly, the Foundation for Government Accountability has tracked significant election-integrity wins over the past few years. The list includes eight states that prohibit unsecured absentee ballot drop boxes. Another seven states have laws on the books requiring voter ID for absentee ballots, with photo ID required for new absentee ballot applications in six states. Five states have strengthened rights for election observers. Another four states have established election crime units, while 10 states require post-election audits.
Still, the clock is ticking, particularly in swing states, to move on election-integrity legislation. A week out from the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nominating contest of the 2024 election cycle, the ticking is growing louder.
“If you want to pass good policy in this country it starts with election integrity,” FGA’s Malisa said.