More than a year after Joe Biden won the presidential election, baseless claims of voter fraud continue to circulate around battleground states. This time, Wisconsin is in the crosshairs.
“Wisconsin 2020 Election Investigation Finds More Illegal Votes Were Cast Than Biden’s Margin Of Victory,” reads the headline on a Dec. 10 article from a website called Team Tucker Carlson, which isn’t affiliated with Fox News.
The article accrued more than 900 shares on Facebook within a week, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool. Several similar claims racked up thousands of additional shares on social media.
The Western Journal published the claim in a Dec. 10 article. The conservative news site later revised the headline after PolitiFact debunked it. Another website, the Conservative Brief, corrected its story after USA TODAY reached out for comment.
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The articles cited a Dec. 7 report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative law firm based in Milwaukee. But it dramatically misstated the report’s findings.
The group analyzed vote totals, examined ballots and documents, and conducted surveys and polls to investigate the integrity of the 2020 election. The report’s conclusion: “There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.”
“In all likelihood, more eligible voters cast ballots for Joe Biden than Donald Trump,” the group wrote.
USA TODAY reached out to Team Tucker Carlson for comment.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty’s report did not claim to find tens of thousands of ballots illegally cast during the 2020 election.
In its article, which appears to be copied from the Western Journal’s uncorrected story, Team Tucker Carlson wrote the law firm found “precisely 54,259 ballots were ‘cast by individuals who have never shown a voter ID in any election.'”
“This number is particularly concerning given that Joe Biden won the state of Wisconsin by just 20,000 votes, according to Politico,” the website wrote.
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Biden did win Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty did find more than 54,000 ballots cast by voters who had never shown ID in any election. But that doesn’t mean voter fraud affected the state’s election outcome.
Wisconsin generally requires voters to present a valid form of identification before casting their ballots. However, there are exceptions for “absentee voters who cannot make it to a polling place because they are indefinitely confined or live in a nursing home or care facility,” according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
“These voters do not need to show their photo ID, but other rules do apply,” the commission says on a website with information about the state’s voter ID rules.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty highlighted these “indefinitely confined” voters in its report.
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“While we cannot infer any malignant intent on the part of these voters, this means that many votes were cast without the requirement of photo identification,” the law firm wrote.
More than 265,000 voters claimed “indefinitely confined” status in 2020, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Most of them already had an ID on file, however.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty wrote in its report that the security of the election was “undermined” in part by “lax laws regarding indefinitely confined voter status.” But the group also concluded there was “no particular partisan pattern in usage” and that it’s “unlikely that ‘indefinitely confined voter fraud’ happened in material numbers.”
USA TODAY reached out to the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty for comment.
A recount, audit and several lawsuits have upheld the results of the 2020 election in Wisconsin. There is no evidence widespread voter fraud affected the outcome.
In late November 2020, the state finished a recount of its presidential election results in the state’s two largest counties, affirming Biden’s win. The next day, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the head of the Wisconsin Elections Commission certified the state’s results.
“Certification of the November 2020 presidential election was based upon lawfully cast votes that were affirmed by municipal, county and state canvass certifications and multiple court decisions after reviewing these matters,” Riley Vetterkind, the commission’s public information officer, said in an email to USA TODAY.
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In December 2020, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court upheld the state’s election results by rejecting a lawsuit from Trump. In February, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which challenged Wisconsin’s voting laws.
More recently, an October report from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau found none of the machines it reviewed counted votes incorrectly. Republican lawmakers ordered the audit in February.
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that an investigation found more “illegal votes” cast in Wisconsin in 2020 than Biden’s margin of victory.
A report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty found that, in 2020, more than 54,000 ballots were cast by voters who had never shown ID in any election. Biden won Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes.
But those findings pertain to “indefinitely confined” voters, who, under Wisconsin law, are not required to show ID to vote. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty found no evidence that fraud “happened in material numbers” within that group. A recount, audit and several lawsuits also confirmed the legitimacy of the Wisconsin election results.
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