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PolitiFact Wisconsin's 'High Five' for December 2019

By D.L. Davis January 6, 2020

In December, Wisconsin -- and the nation -- closed an eventful political year.

Here is a look at PolitiFact Wisconsin’s five most-clicked fact-checks from December:

  1.  U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said the United States is the only nation "that grants legal permanent residency to more than a million people per year."   

The Department of Homeland Security defines "legal permanent residency" as non-citizens lawfully authorized to permanently live in the U.S. -- that is, "green card" holders.

Such residents are allowed to work without special restrictions, own property, receive financial aid for higher education and join the military. 

Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration rates, noted the "legal permanent residency" pathway to citizenship is not used in most other countries outside the United States.

Though other countries have undertaken initiatives to grant permanent residency to more immigrants in recent years, those totals remain below the U.S., which topped 1.1 million in 2017, the most recent year available.

We rated Johnson’s claim True. 

     2. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said a voter roll purge would mean "more than 200,000 registered Wisconsin voters will be prohibited from voting."

Up to 234,000 Wisconsin residents are at risk of being removed from the voter rolls, a political lightning-rod that has drawn national attention given the state’s critical role in the 2020 presidential election.

Wisconsin election officials believe those people may have moved, so they sent letters inquiring about their status in October. A series of ensuing lawsuits and court actions have sought to more quickly remove these people from the voting rolls -- or delay that from happening.

We found Pelosi’s claim, issued via tweet, is a significant exaggeration of what’s at stake.

The pruning process — if allowed by the courts — could potentially remove more than 200,000 people from the voting rolls before the upcoming elections. But there is no punitive element that would ban future voting. Everyone can re-register, even on Election Day.

The use of the word "prohibited," in particular, goes too far, in that it suggests there is no way to vote in the future.

We rated Pelosi’s claim Pants on Fire.

      3. Gov. Tony Evers said a Republican bill he vetoed would have implemented a "mandate" to make public the names of all students’ parents or guardians.

Tucked into the back end of a news release highlighting 13 bills Ever signed into law, a single line noted Evers also vetoed an obscure Republican-sponsored schools bill.

Evers, a Democrat who spent almost a decade as state schools superintendent, objected to how the bill addressed student records in his Nov. 21, 2019, veto message.

"Under this bill, the name of a pupil’s parents or guardians would be added to the list of categories that a public school must designate as directory data," Evers wrote. "I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to implementing a mandate that will negatively impact the privacy of parents of students in Wisconsin."

In other words, he was arguing the bill would require public release of parent names.

There’s just one problem: The bill didn’t do that.

There is no mandate — something Evers’ office eventually admitted once we asked about it.

We rated Evers’ claim False.

    4.  State Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, said a "study showed as many as one in four people have had a package stolen from their residence."   

Hutton used a GOP weekly radio address to tout his proposed bill to increase the penalties for stealing mail and packages.

A trio of surveys of online shoppers supported the number he cited, though statistics from law enforcement are hard to come by.

According to Security.org, federal data does not distinguish package theft from other larceny, so it’s not clear exactly how many package thefts take place every year across the country.  

But according to the FBI’s 2017 Crime in the United States report, the most recent annual data available, more than 5.5. million larceny thefts were reported across the country.

We rated Hutton’s claim True

     5.  U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said "104 House Democrats voted for impeachment before the Ukraine call took place." 

Many Republicans — and President Trump himself — have argued Democrats made up their minds long ago on whether to impeach the president. But Sensenbrenner’s claim put an entirely new framework on it, saying many had voted for impeachment before the actual vote. 

He was citing earlier measures that did not go anywhere, such as proposals to impeach Trump over the firing of FBI director James Comey. 

But reality gets in the way of the rhetoric. The votes were on motions to table, not the merits of the measures. There was no actual vote on impeachment until the one that ultimately passed.

We rated Sensenbrenner’s claim Mostly False.

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PolitiFact Wisconsin's 'High Five' for December 2019