A recent report on the 2020 election in Wisconsin is a model for the type of fair-handed examination of voting processes that should be conducted in every state. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) examined the data, laws and conduct of the election including numerous controversies that were the subject of lawsuits and heated debate. Their rigorous methodology and refusal to jump to partisan conclusions is to be commended.

The Bottom Line Up Front? They found very little evidence of fraud but significant evidence of illegal and unlawful voting and voting operations. In line with WILL’s commitment to ensuring they properly represent the conclusions, they note that the number of votes in question due to this is sufficient to potentially flip the result. But they also note that cannot be properly claimed based solely on even this type of statistical analysis.

I am not bound by their professional reticence and having read all 136 pages multiple times can speak for the rest of us. If Wisconsin had followed and enforced its own existing laws and rules it would almost certainly have been a victory for Donald Trump. The violations of law and process were widespread and glaringly apparent and showed many election officials at both state and local levels knowingly committed them.

If that’s the case, then why didn’t Trump prevail in court? There are many reasons, but the biggest is the dismal failure of the Trump campaign to object to these rules, guidance and operational decisions before the election. That meant that any possible relief would not include a reexamination of the improper votes. Any fixes would have to be made so that the next election was held using legal and proper methods.

The total margin of victory for Joe Biden in Wisconsin was 20,682 votes. Let’s look at some of the identified anomalies.

One of the major violations of Wisconsin election law was the use of ballot drop boxes which are not authorized in existing election law. These were used predominantly in areas that went heavily for Biden. From page 34 of the report:

“The results here suggest that drop boxes could have had a significant impact on the election results. Projecting over the number of communities that had drop boxes yields an estimated 20,736 additional votes for Biden as a result of the boxes.”

This  was challenged by WILL and has now been ruled unlawful. It is now on its way to the state Supreme Court for a final ruling, but very likely to be upheld by a conservative majority. Right there is enough to take away Biden’s win and we’re just getting started.

One of the most blatant violations was the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) issuing guidance to local clerks telling them they had an affirmative duty to “cure” absentee ballots. This is a process where improperly filed ballots are by law supposed to be mailed back to the voter to fix. Instead the WEC unlawfully instructed clerks to do this themselves.

The exact number of ballots affected by this is unknown because many clerks did not even follow the illegal guidance correctly and failed to mark with the red marker any “cures”. The number though would again be much larger than the margin of victory.

A stunning statistical anomaly was the massively lower rate of absentee ballots rejected, especially when compared to the primary election held just that previous Spring. The rejection rate dropped from 1.57% to 0.2%. A record number of absentee ballot votes were cast in this election, almost 2M in total. Most of these were first time absentee ballot users, and as the report notes “A Dartmouth study found that first-time absentee voters were up to three times more likely to have their ballot rejected.”

So why did the rejection rate plummet so far? The logical explanation is that election workers were much more lenient in allowing improperly cast ballots to be counted. This led to a significant number of improper votes for Biden. From page 16 of the report:

Due to the partisan split in absentee voting, WILL estimates that if absentee ballot rejection rates were similar to the rates in 2016, the final election margin would have narrowed by 6,000 votes – making a very close election even closer. While it should be noted that absentee ballot rejection rates do not appear to vary based on community partisanship, this outcome flows from the partisan skew in the use of absentee ballots.

There are many other violations such as guidance from WEC telling people to request absentee ballots based on claims by many that they were “Indefinitely confined” due to COVID and therefore were granted the right to vote without providing any photo ID. The problem is COVID was not a factor allowing this type of ballot request. There is now a state Supreme Court ruling that this was improper.

Another major flaw was the infusion of private money into the supposedly non-partisan election operations in the state. From page 69:

“The Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) created a great deal of controversy during the 2020 election by providing grants for election administration to municipalities around the country. Funded in large part by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, CTCL made grants of more than $10 million to municipalities around Wisconsin…

Most significantly, areas of the state that received grants saw statistically significant increases in turnout for Democrats.”

Many of these ZuckerBucks served essentially as voter outreach and turnout for Democrats. This blatant election interference should never be allowed again.

There is no evidence that the large number of votes in question were fraudulently cast, but they were certainly not cast properly. If the Trump campaign had challenged these practices prior to the voting, they would have had a chance to legitimately challenge the outcome.

There were so many violations and they were so pervasive that no one can have any confidence the state results were accurate. This report also shows the desperate need for actual election reform, and not the kind Democrats are pushing. Those amount to the Wisconsin unlawfulness codified and turned into the new rule of everything counts in large amounts.

That is unacceptable. Republicans in state legislatures should ignore the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Left and fix it. We all deserve election integrity.

  • Jim Hanson is the Executive Director of America Matters and the author of “Winning the Second Civil War: Without Firing a Shot”