While Trump campaign, supporters falsely attack election, WEC pushes back on misinformation

    The polling place at the City of Brodhead fire station. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

    One day after Wisconsin was called for Joe Biden but before the results are certified or a national winner has been declared, Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) Administrator Meagan Wolfe was forced to counter rumors and misinformation spreading online and from the Trump campaign. 

    In a virtual media briefing on Thursday, Wolfe said she’s happy to answer questions from voters, but hopes that people can get the facts before sharing on social media. 

    After Biden won Wisconsin and several other states because of absentee ballots that were counted after Election Day, President Donald Trump and others started to claim fraud. Wolfe countered false claims that the City of Milwaukee’s late-coming results were rigged and that the state’s results were incorrect because there were more votes cast than there were registered voters. 

    (Because Wisconsin allows same-day voter registration, comparing voter registration numbers before Election Day to vote totals after Election Day caused some Trump supporters to reach false conclusions, which were spread on social media, and then debunked.)

    “To address some of the questions head on, Wisconsin does not have more votes than registered voters,” Wolfe said. “There were no absentee ballots found in the middle of the night. There were lawyers and observers from both parties on site and involved the entire time. That even includes at  4 a.m. when ballots were still being counted, and those unofficial totals were being posted. Clerks follow the law and they counted every ballot until they were done.”

    The entire election process, from when a voter casts her ballot until that vote is certified by the WEC, is publicly observable, Wolfe said. All of the processes that are under attack in the days after the election were observed by members of both major political parties, she added. 

    Shortly after Wisconsin was called for Biden, the Trump campaign signaled it would be requesting a recount — an assertion the campaign has since walked back. 

    But if the campaign were to request a recount — which it is legally able to do because the margin is within 1% — it would have to be done one business day after the last county certifies its results. 

    Once the recount is requested, county elections officials have 13 days to complete it. Because the margin is greater than 0.25%, the Trump campaign would have to pre-pay the cost of the recount to the WEC. 

    Wolfe said the WEC’s staff is currently working on estimating how much that would cost. 

    Two days after the election, all of Wisconsin’s 1,850 municipalities and 72 counties are working on certifying the results through the canvassing process. 

    “Canvassing is, simply put, the triple check on the election process,” Wolfe said. 

    On the day after the election, every municipality checks all of the election materials and makes sure the poll book is accurate. From there, materials get sent to each county to repeat the process. 

    Finally, the counties send their data to the WEC which runs a final check and officially certifies the results. 

    “We get all the data and so then we do our final checks on all the data, make sure things line up, like registered voters,” Wolfe said. “Do we have the right number of registered voters for ballots that were issued? Is there a problem here? Did somebody add an extra zero? Did something go wrong in any other process? And then once we do our check, we certify. And so that’s the canvas process.” 

    All of these procedures are publicly observable.

    Henry Redman
    Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.