I worked for the WI State Senate for 15 years. During that time I learned that the WI Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has an impeccable reputation, the best of its kind in the country. They could find a needle in a thousand haystacks.
Today the LAB issued an audit following the completion of its evaluation of elections administration issues. The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) is responsible for ensuring compliance with state and federal election laws.
Media outlets like the leftist Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will emphasize that the November 2020 presidential election in WI was, for the most part, safe and secure. They will scoff at several findings that the election system suffered from flaws that need correction. The LAB made 30 recommendations on solutions.
Here are some findings direct from the final audit report:
TRAINING: We found that WEC’s administrative rules for training municipal clerks have not been updated since June 2016 and contain outdated provisions.
1,349 municipal clerks (82.5 percent) reported having completed all required training; and 287 municipal clerks (17.5 percent) did not report having completed all required training.
76 clerks (63.3 percent) reported having each completed, on average, 6.0 hours of training from January 1, 2020, through November 3, 2020, including 71 clerks who reported having completed the initial training; and 44 clerks (36.7 percent) did not report having completed any training from January 1, 2020, through November 3, 2020. Some of these clerks may have completed training but did not report it, and some may have begun working as clerks after November 3, 2020.
DUPLICATE VOTING: Duplicate voter registration records can be identified with additional sets of criteria not currently used by WisVote. We used only the driver’s license and state identification card numbers to identify potentially duplicate records for all individuals who voted absentee in the November 2020 General Election. We identified 70 records in which either driver’s license or state identification card numbers matched the numbers in 70 separate records. We provided WEC’s staff with a list of these 140 total records for their review because the criteria WEC’s staff use to identify potentially duplicate records would not have discovered these records.
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. This suggests that the 24 individuals associated with these records had two active voter registration records. We analyzed absentee ballot data provided by WEC’s staff and found that these data indicated 4 of the 24 individuals may have voted twice by absentee ballot during the November 2020 General Election. We provided WEC’s staff with the names of these 24 individuals, including the 4 individuals who may have voted twice.
DECEASED INDIVIDUAL: We obtained data from WEC’s staff on all 33,473 potential matches between the information provided by DHS and the personally identifiable information in voter registration records from January 1, 2020, through November 3, 2020. These data indicated whether clerks had acted on the potential matches as of mid-April 2021. If a clerk does not act on a potential match for a given individual, WEC’s staff are uncertain if a clerk determined whether an individual is still alive and, therefore, whether the voter registration record is accurate. As shown in Table 3, the data indicated that clerks had acted on the potential matches for 20,908 individuals (62.5 percent), but that clerks in 1,199 municipalities had made no determinations on the potential matches for 12,565 individuals (37.5 percent)
If an individual submits an absentee ballot but dies before Election Day, statutes require that the absentee ballot not be counted if local election officials are aware of the death. Identifying deceased individuals in time to ensure that their absentee ballots are not counted is sometimes challenging because of the amount of time required for DHS to be notified of the deaths, for DHS to prepare the applicable data, and for the monthly data exchange with WisVote to occur. We found that it took clerks a median time of 7 days from when they were informed about a potential match to when they determined that an individual was deceased or alive; and 56 days from when individuals died to when they determined that an individual was deceased or alive. We reviewed the voting records of the 20,614 individuals who clerks determined were deceased and the 12,565 individuals for whom clerks made no determinations. The available information indicates that 11 individuals who died before November 3, 2020, likely voted in the General Election.
INDIVIDUALS SERVING FELONY SENTENCES: Statutes prohibit individuals convicted of felonies from voting until they have completed their sentences, including parole and extended supervision, or completed probation. DOC is statutorily required on a continuous basis to provide WEC with the names and addresses of individuals who have been convicted of felonies and whose civil rights have not been restored, as well as the dates DOC expects these civil rights to be restored…the data indicated that clerks had acted on the potential matches for 1,435 individuals (63.6 percent), and it took a median time of five days to act on these matches. Clerks in 296 municipalities had made no determinations on the potential matches for 821 individuals (36.4 percent).
We reviewed the voting records of the 1,115 individuals whom clerks determined had ongoing felony sentences and the 821 individuals for whom clerks made no determinations. We found that the available data indicate that eight individuals with ongoing felony sentences may have voted in the November 2020 General Election.
ABSENTEE BALLOTS: We physically reviewed 14,710 certificates in the 29 municipalities, where a total of 470,028 absentee ballots were cast in the November 2020 General Election. Our review of the 14,710 certificates found that 1,022 certificates (6.9 percent) in 28 municipalities 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, including 799 certificates (5.4 percent) that did not have a zip code and 364 certificates (2.5 percent) that did not have a state; 15 certificates (0.1 percent) in 10 municipalities did not have a witness address in its entirety; 8 certificates (less than 0.1 percent) in 7 municipalities did not have a witness signature; and 3 certificates (less than 0.1 percent) in 2 municipalities did not have a voter’s signature.
Statutes require municipal clerks to write their initials on certificates in certain situations, including when individuals request absentee ballots in person at clerk offices. These initials indicate that clerks verified the identification provided by these individuals when they requested absentee ballots. Statutes indicate that a ballot must not be counted if the accompanying certificate is not initialed by a clerk, when such initials are required.
During our review of the 14,710 certificates, we found that less than 1.0 percent of all certificates we reviewed in four municipalities contained clerk initials. Clerks at these municipalities indicated that they did not initial certificates for multiple reasons, including because the individuals who requested the ballots were registered and eligible to receive them; the clerks printed the names and addresses of the individuals on the certificates to signify the individuals were eligible to receive the ballots; and the clerks initialed the ballots rather than the certificates. We question whether the clerks in these four municipalities consistently complied with the statutory requirement for them to initial certificates in certain situations.
INDEFINITELY CONFINED INDIVIDUALS : Statutes allow individuals to sign statements indicating they are indefinitely confined because of age, physical illness, or infirmity, or because they are disabled for an indefinite period. Such individuals are not required to provide proof of their identification in order to receive absentee ballots. Instead, statutes allow them to submit signed statements from witnesses who observed them voting their ballots. These statements must contain the names and addresses of the individuals and verify the accuracy of this information.
220,404 indefinitely confined individuals voted in the November 2020 General Election, including 169,901 individuals (77.1 percent) who first indicated in 2020 that they were indefinitely confined. We found that 1,001 individuals first indicated for the November 2020 General Election that they were indefinitely confined but, in fact, voted at the polls on November 3, 2020.
The entire audit report is here.