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President Donald Trump President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke December 4, 2020

No, residents that Wisconsin officials suspected of moving are not "illegal voters"

If Your Time is short

  • Most people on this list have been regular voters -- 72% of the original list had voted in the 2016 presidential election.
  • Nothing about being on the list makes a person ineligible to vote, it's just clarifying where they live.

A list of Wisconsin voters who state officials believed recently moved was a source of ongoing controversy in the runup to the 2020 election. 

The state planned to use this information to update the voter rolls by 2021 — knowing the list contained errors — but many conservatives pushed to have those people pulled off the rolls of registered voters before this year’s election. That didn’t happen.

But now President Donald Trump is raising the matter again amid a flurry of other baseless voter fraud claims.

Trump took aim at the Wisconsin system — built by Republicans — in a Dec. 2, 2020, speech, including this callback to the contested cleanup of the Wisconsin voter rolls:

"In Wisconsin, the state’s Board of Elections could not confirm the residency of more than 100,000 people, but repeatedly refused to remove those names from its voter rolls before the election," Trump said. "They knew why, nobody else did. I knew why. They were illegal voters."

Trump raises a new issue here, going so far as calling the people on this list illegal voters.

So let’s look back at what we know.

And why that description is wrong.

The background

This controversy dates to October 2019, when the Wisconsin Elections Commission sent mailers to 232,000 people saying it believed they may have moved, asking them to update their voter registration or confirm if they lived at the same address. The commission planned to remove people from the roll in 2021 if the resident took no action.

But three voters — represented by Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty — filed a lawsuit in November 2019 arguing the state had to remove the names from the rolls faster. Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy agreed and ordered the names be stricken from the voter rolls. 

An appeals court later ruled against Malloy, keeping names on the rolls, and an appeal of that is pending before the state Supreme Court.

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In the meantime, the list shrunk — both from people updating their addresses and from thousands confirming they were wrongly listed as having moved. As of May, about 4,700 voters who were flagged as moving reported they were actually still at their same address

The list of potential movers was down to 129,000 as of early 2020.

Not "illegal voters"

That brings us to the core of Trump’s claim: That those remaining on the list at the time of the Nov. 3 election were "illegal voters."

This is simply wrong.

No officials ever asserted these people were unqualified to vote. Even if they had been removed from the list, these voters could have cast a ballot in November by simply re-registering at the polls or anytime before.

And we know from voting records that most people in this group were regulars at the polls. Records show 72% of the original 232,000 on the movers list had voted in the 2016 presidential election, and 89% had voted in at least one election since 2006.

We have seen no evidence that people included on the list voted improperly in the Nov. 3 election.

Among those left on the list prior to the election, those who moved would have been able to register and vote at their new address. And those who hadn’t moved would have been able to vote at their usual polling place, since they remained registered there.

Our ruling

Trump said in a speech that residents the Election Commission suspected of moving are "illegal voters."

But 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 rate this False.

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No, residents that Wisconsin officials suspected of moving are not "illegal voters"

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