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Sen. Ron Johnson addresses the crowd after President Donald Trump invited him to speak after he was introduced at a campaign rally at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena Jan. 14, 2020. (Mike DeSisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Sen. Ron Johnson addresses the crowd after President Donald Trump invited him to speak after he was introduced at a campaign rally at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena Jan. 14, 2020. (Mike DeSisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

Sen. Ron Johnson addresses the crowd after President Donald Trump invited him to speak after he was introduced at a campaign rally at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena Jan. 14, 2020. (Mike DeSisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

By D.L. Davis January 4, 2021

The 2020 election was more than two months ago, but everything will come to a head -- yet again -- on Jan. 6, 2021.

That’s when Congress is to do its constitutionally prescribed -- and in most years primarily ceremonial -- task of opening and counting the Electoral College votes from each state.

When that happens this year, it will show Democrat Joe Biden winning 306 electoral votes, defeating President Donald Trump who tallied 232. That’s the same tally (in reverse) from four years ago, a margin Trump himself labeled a landslide. (NOTE: In 2016, Donald J. Trump ultimately received 304 votes compared to 227 votes for Hillary Clinton. Seven electors voted for someone other than their party’s candidate.)

But U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has said he’ll join 11 other Republican senators and an expected 100-plus GOP House members in formally objecting to votes from the states that swung the election to Biden, including Wisconsin.

Johnson, up for reelection in 2022, is the only senator joining the effort whose own state voted for Biden. In other words, if successful, he would disenfranchise his own constituents.

In the midst of the debate, many of the same debunked claims of massive election fraud that Trump and his supporters have baselessly pushed for months have come roaring back.

Guess what? They’re still wrong.

Here’s a look at some of our key fact-checks about the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin, and the count that followed:

Residents the Wisconsin Elections Commission suspected of moving are "illegal voters."

-- Trump

There’s absolutely no factual or logical basis to this claim.

Most people on this list have been regular voters, and nothing about being on the list makes them ineligible to vote.  It was just an effort to clarify where voters lived.

We rated this False.

"THOUSANDS of fake votes found at Wisconsin Recount in Dane County."

-- Facebook

Gateway Pundit, the far-right purveyor of election nonsense published a story Nov. 28, 2020, with this headline: "BREAKING EXCLUSIVE: THOUSANDS of fake votes found at Wisconsin Recount in Dane County – Photos and Report from GOP Observer."

The story — which also linked a long-since debunked claim about a "dump" of votes for Democrat Joe Biden in the middle of the night — contained nothing approaching proof of this claim.

The repeated initials aren’t those of the voter, they’re initials of the clerk who issued the absentee ballots. That’s not sketchy, it’s just a basic element of how elections are administered.

We rated this Pants on Fire.

"Actually, I won Wisconsin."

-- President Donald Trump

A lot of people spouted lies about the presidential election in Wisconsin, but this one took the cake. 

Trump made this claim during a December rally in Georgia despite a preponderance of evidence that President-elect Joe Biden won the state, such as Election Day tallies and a partial recount in Dane and Milwaukee counties.   

Meanwhile, judges from the circuit court level to the U.S. Supreme Court rejected repeated efforts by the Trump campaign to overturn Wisconsin’s election results. And there is no credible evidence that suggests Trump won here.

The president's claim earned a Pants on Fire rating. 

"Wisconsin (vote counters) took a break, and when they returned, Biden coincidentally came back ahead by 100k."

-- Facebook post

Social media has been inundated with misinformation about Wisconsin’s role in the election, including this claim.

Trump enjoyed a lead of more than 100,000 votes in Wisconsin early on election night, but Biden jumped ahead by about 8,000 votes after Milwaukee reported mail-in ballot results. His lead widened to around 20,000 after Green Bay and Kenosha finished their tallies. 

So, two things: Biden never held a lead of 100,000 votes in Wisconsin and didn’t win the state by that margin. And some of the election results arrived late due to an influx of mail-in ballots — not because officials "took a break."

We rated this Pants on Fire.

"System 'Glitch' ... In Wisconsin - Reversal of Swapped Votes Removes Lead from Joe Biden."

-- Eric Trump

The president’s son tweeted this claim centered on Rock County and linked to an article from the far-right website Gateway Pundit bearing the same headline. 

There was no glitch in the election system. And there was no "gotcha" moment or evidence that moved votes over to President Trump’s column.

The presidential totals were transposed for several minutes due to a data entry error by the Associated Press, without any involvement by election officials. The votes were counted following standard procedures by the Rock County clerk’s office and showed Biden winning the county by more than 9,000 votes.

We rated this Pants on Fire.

"In Wisconsin, there are approximately 70,000 absentee ballots that do not have matching ballot applications as required by law."

-- Trump

Every part of this was wrong.

Trump was actually referring to a group of 170,000 votes, not 70,000.

And that group of in-person absentee voters did indeed fill out an application in order to cast their ballot. It was part of the ballot certificate on the envelope, but that doesn’t make it any less valid since state statute doesn’t specify the nature of that application.

It’s the same approach that’s been used without issue in Wisconsin elections since 2010 — including the 2016 presidential contest that Trump won.

We rated this claim Pants on Fire.

Says a picture of stacked mailboxes is proof of voter suppression in Wisconsin

Facebook posts

Amid the pre-election debate over the security of mail-in voting (fraud is exceedingly rare, for the record), one claim that drew a particularly large audience was built around a picture of stacks of mailboxes. Viral social media posts described the photo as originating in Wisconsin.

The picture is from Wisconsin, taken at a Hartford company, but it’s not proof of anything nefarious.

The U.S. Postal Service contracts with Hartford Finishing to repair or destroy old mailboxes. The mailboxes shown could have been removed — after a public notice — due to lack of use (following a long-established process), or they could have been replaced with new boxes due to their condition.

We rated this claim False.

"A day AFTER the election, (Democrat Joe) Biden receives a dump of 143,379 votes at 3:42AM (in Wisconsin), when they learned he was losing badly. This is unbelievable!"

President Trump

The pre-election misinformation was nothing compared to the avalanche of nonsense about Wisconsin votes once we saw how close and pivotal the state was to Trump’s reelection chances. This claim was among the most pervasive, surfacing in numerous forms.

But this isn’t evidence of fraud — it’s evidence of someone who doesn’t understand the vote counting process in Wisconsin.

That jump in Biden votes came when Milwaukee reported its 170,000 absentee ballots all at once. We knew long before the election the city ballots would be reported late and would weigh heavily in Biden’s favor, given that Milwaukee is heavily Democratic and mail-in votes as a whole strongly favored Biden as well.

We rated this claim Pants on Fire.

Wisconsin voter turnout jumped from 67% in 2016 to 89% in 2020.

Donald Trump Jr.

This widespread claim was one of many that used shoddy math to try to show something shady happened in Wisconsin. Because of same-day registration in Wisconsin, turnout is measured as a percentage of eligible voters, not registered ones. What’s more, Trump, the president’s son, used eligible voters for the 2016 figure but registered voters for 2020 — a fundamental apples and oranges comparison. 

Using the proper denominator for 2020 (eligible voters) shows a turnout around 72%, firmly in the range of past presidential elections.

We rated this Pants on Fire.


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9 key fact-checks about the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin