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City of Milwaukee ballot drop box. (Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). City of Milwaukee ballot drop box. (Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

City of Milwaukee ballot drop box. (Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

By Tyler Katzenberger November 8, 2023

Claim that Wisconsin official Meagan Wolfe allowed absentee drop boxes, ballot harvesting is false

If Your Time is short

  • A TV ad claimed Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe allowed illegal absentee ballot drop boxes and ballot harvesting in the 2020 presidential election.

  • However, Wolfe is bound to decisions made by Wisconsin’s bipartisan elections commission.

  • Drop boxes were legally unchallenged in 2020.

  • The ad misrepresents Wolfe’s role as elections administrator.

A new TV ad attacking Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for not impeaching Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin’s top elections administrator, pushes previously debunked election disinformation about absentee ballot drop boxes and ballot collection.

"It’s Ms. Wolfe that allowed for the use of illegal drop boxes and ballot harvesting," a voice-over narrates in the ad. A full-page newspaper ad that has run in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel makes a similar claim.

However, Wolfe did not make decisions about illegal ballot drop boxes or ballot harvesting and does not have the power to do so.

Impeachment articles riddled with falsehoods

First, in an earlier review, we found all 15 impeachment articles against Wolfe contain misleading or false claims about how elections administration works in Wisconsin.

That hasn’t stopped the Wisconsin Election Committee Inc. from running ads on Milwaukee-area TV and radio stations threatening to recall Vos or launch a primary challenge if he doesn't proceed with impeachment against Wolfe.

Vos advanced the impeachment articles to an Assembly committee shortly after the ad launched.

More: PolitiFact: Impeachment articles against Meagan Wolfe riddled with false and misleading claims

The group is led by Adam Steen, who unsuccessfully launched a primary challenge against Vos in 2022, and Harry Wait, a Racine County man who was charged last year for fraudulently obtaining absentee ballots.

The group’s TV ad makes multiple false claims about Wolfe, one of which blames her for decisions made by the bipartisan panel of six commissioners who oversee the Wisconsin Elections Commission. 

The ad also makes false claims about Wolfe’s role in third-party financial assistance for 2020 election operations and falsely blames her for mismanaging Wisconsin’s voter rolls.

More: Claim that Wis. elections official Meagan Wolfe refused to ‘clean up’ voter rolls is Pants on Fire

Featured Fact-check

More: Claim that Wis. elections official Meagan Wolfe permitted ‘Zuckerbucks’ in 2020 is Pants on Fire

When asked to provide evidence for the ad’s claims, Wait provided documents from summarizing state lawsuits that HOT Government, a group focused on false election claims, cited as proof Wolfe acted illegally.

He also provided an election report from former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman that found no evidence of election fraud.

Some lawsuits cited were irrelevant to the impeachment case against Wolfe. Those that were relevant framed Wolfe’s communications to local clerks as allowing or permitting actions that Wolfe lacked voting power to determine. That power lies with state elections commissioners. 

Even then, the commission decisions cited as unlawful were legally unchallenged when commissioners voted on them in 2020.

Wolfe follows WEC policy but does not make it

Wolfe in her position is bound by law to execute duties based on commissioners’ decisions. She cannot vote on the decisions.

Therefore, Wolfe did not "allow" the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in the 2020 election, something that was unchallenged in 2020 but deemed illegal in a July 2022 state Supreme Court ruling that applied to elections going forward. Drop boxes were used for decades before the 2020 elections.

Furthermore, Wolfe did not make the decision to allow "ballot harvesting," or collecting absentee ballots, in nursing homes. The commissioners who oversee her position unanimously voted in March 2020 to send absentee voting ballots to long-term care facilities without the use of special voting deputies in the 2020 presidential election. 

Commissioners said they advised mailing absentee ballots to the facilities to protect a population vulnerable to COVID-19 and to ensure that voters had enough time to cast their ballots when nursing homes were barring visitors.

MORE: How nursing home voting in Wisconsin became a focus of Republicans scrutinizing the 2020 election

Our ruling

A TV ad from Wisconsin Elections Committee Inc. claimed Wolfe "allowed for the use of illegal drop boxes and ballot harvesting."

Both claims against Wolfe blame her for decisions she did not make and peddle misleading claims that have already been debunked. However, the commission does have a role to play in this area, which, in our view, did not push the claim to being considered ridiculous.

We rate this claim False.

Claim that Wisconsin official Meagan Wolfe allowed absentee drop boxes, ballot harvesting is false

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