(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s first official audit into the 2020 election found issues from either the state’s election managers or local election managers in every area where auditors looked.
The Legislative Audit Bureau released its 168 page report on Friday.
Auditors looked at the training that Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) is required to provide to local clerks, analyzed how WEC and local clerks maintained the accuracy of voter registration rolls, and reviewed the guidance that WEC and its staff provided to clerks for handling absentee ballots and processing ballots. The audit also examined issues pertaining to electronic voting equipment, as well as the statutorily required post-election audit that WEC conducted after the November 2020 general election.
The audit additionally reviewed how WEC and its staff considered post-election complaints, and they examined the costs of the recount after the general election.
Auditors made 30 recommendations to WEC and 18 recommendations for lawmakers.
Democratic lawmakers in Madison say the audit didn't find any issues with the vote totals and that it doesn't change the outcome of the November election.
“The report also contradicts the disingenuous lies legislative Republicans have peddled for the last eleven months in their attempt to breed distrust in our democracy,” Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said Friday.
The number two Republican in the State Assembly, Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said while the audit doesn’t change who won the election, it does show that WEC “skirted” the state’s election laws.
“Our government relies on fair and transparent elections. That’s why it’s outrageous that the very agency charged with overseeing our state’s elections failed on so many levels to adhere to our state’s voting laws,” Steineke said.
The auditors surveyed all 1,835 clerks in Wisconsin’s 72 counties, but examined just 14,710 absentee ballots in 30 cities or counties. Clerks in the city of Madison and Milwaukee County would not allow auditors to examiner their ballots. The audit team noted that Madison, Milwaukee County, and a third recalcitrant municipality of Little Suamico accounted for nearly 19% of the ballot cast last fall.
Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, said it's outrageous that those clerks refused to cooperate with the audit.
"That Milwaukee and Madison once again did not provide information lacks transparency and leaves more questions for voters,” Brandtjen told The Center Square Friday. “They are by law supposed to provide this information. They don't get to say no. This is not how this works."
Brandtjen is leading her own investigation into last year’s election.
The audit recommends 18 items that lawmakers may want to address, including clarifying the rules for ‘curing’ ballots, whether ballot drop boxes are allowed in the state, and what kind of role – if any – outside election groups can play in a city or county’s vote count.
Steineke guaranteed that will happen.
“Wisconsin Republicans will use today’s findings as a roadmap to pass reforms to help restore trust in our election process,” Steineke added.