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stated on May 6, 2024 in an X post:
Fired Milwaukee election leader “printed 64,000 ballots in a back room at City Hall in Milwaukee and had random employees fill them out,” giving Joe Biden the lead.
true false
Claire Woodall, the former executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, teaches a class to poll workers Oct. 22, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP) Claire Woodall, the former executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, teaches a class to poll workers Oct. 22, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP)

Claire Woodall, the former executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, teaches a class to poll workers Oct. 22, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP)

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone May 21, 2024
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman May 21, 2024

No, Milwaukee’s election chief did not print 64,000 ballots to force a Biden win

If Your Time is short

  • A spokesperson for Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said Claire Woodall was not replaced as executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission because of improper conduct related to the 2020 Wisconsin election.

  • The claim that Woodall printed 64,000 ballots and had employees fill them out to favor Joe Biden originated with a Wisconsin man who has filed numerous lawsuits against Wisconsin officials, none of which have produced evidence of this claim.

  • Milwaukee ballots are printed by city vendors, and the city does not have the capability to print 64,000 ballots, the mayoral spokesperson said.

Six months before the 2024 presidential election, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson replaced the head of the city’s election commission. The change had social media users claiming the change was motivated by the discovery of fraudulent activity in the 2020 election.

Johnson on May 6 replaced Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall, nominating her deputy, Paulina Gutiérrez, to replace her. 

A May 6 X post alleged that Woodall had been fired after printing ballots and recruiting employees to fill them out.

"Recently FIRED Claire Woodall-Vogg printed 64,000 ballots in a back room at City Hall in Milwaukee and had random employees fill them out. Miraculously Biden took the lead in the middle of the night," said the post, which had been viewed more than 410,000 times as of May 21. "64,000 ballots. The margin in the presidential election was 20,000!!!"

In a reply to her X post, the user shared a separate X post from a Wisconsin man who accused Woodall of "printing ballots in the back conference room. That man filed a 2021 lawsuit against Woodall, alleging she and others printed ballots in a back room at City Hall in fall 2020.

We found multiple social media posts and conservative media articles and videos making similar allegations about Woodall, some of them also citing the 64,000 ballot figure. 

There are some unknowns about why Woodall was replaced, according to reporting by PolitiFact’s partners at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

But there’s no evidence that Woodall printed tens of thousands of ballots in a back room and had workers fill them out. A spokesperson for Milwaukee’s mayor told PolitiFact that Woodall was not replaced for any improper conduct related to the 2020 election.

Jeff Fleming, a Johnson spokesperson, told PolitiFact that Woodall did nothing improper in the 2020 election. The 2021 civil lawsuit that alleged she did is not connected to the mayor’s decision, he said.

Former President Donald Trump and his supporters have long baselessly claimed that Trump won the Wisconsin vote in 2020 and that there was election fraud found that tipped the state’s election to Biden. Neither claim is accurate, PolitiFact has reported. Biden won statewide by nearly 20,700 votes. Many conspiracy theories about Wisconsin’s election stem from absentee votes being added to the tally late at night. Wisconsin law does not allow clerks to process absentee ballots until polls open on Election Day, so many Milwaukee votes were reported late  on election night and early the next morning.

Why was Woodall replaced?

When news of Woodall’s replacement broke, Johnson didn’t give a reason for the change when he responded to news reporters’ questions, but he did say she wasn’t fired. He said she had been offered another position that she chose not to accept. 

"There was absolutely no evidence, indication, or credible information of any improper action related to the conduct of elections or the counting of votes," Fleming said.

Fleming said Woodall remains on the city payroll in support of the election commission for at least the next two months. He said that Johnson also made leadership changes in two other cabinet positions, which state law allows a mayor to do upon inauguration for a new term, which happened April 16.

Woodall told PolitiFact the mayor "decided to go a different direction with his appointment." She did not accept the other position, she said, because it did not yet exist and hadn’t been formally approved. There were many details to still be worked out, she said.

"I decided it was best for us to focus on a transition plan and to seek new opportunities outside of city employment after I assist with this transition," Woodall said.

Election workers, right, verify ballots as recount observers, left, watch Nov. 20, 2020, during a Milwaukee hand recount of presidential votes at the Wisconsin Center. (AP)

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The 64,000 question

The 64,000 figure appears to have originated with a Wisconsin man named Peter Bernegger, who has referred to it in other X posts.

Bernegger was convicted of bank and mail fraud in Mississippi in 2009, unrelated to any elections. In February, Wisconsin prosecutors accused Bernegger of falsifying a 2023 subpoena in an election-related case, and he was charged with "simulating legal process," a felony. There’s a preliminary hearing for Bernegger scheduled for June 20.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission in 2022 fined Bernegger more than $2,400 for making frivolous election complaints. He has filed at least 18 lawsuits against Wisconsin election officials alleging fraud.

We reached out to Bernegger by email through his organization, Election Watch, but received no response.

Woodall said she doesn’t know how Bernegger arrived at "this magical 64,000 number."

"I can assure you I did not print 64,000 ballots and that does not appear in the deposition," Woodall said.

Bernegger filed a 2021 open records lawsuit against Woodall. Although the lawsuit didn’t refer to the 64,000 figure, he accused Woodall and others of printing ballots in a City Hall conference room.

That number did come up in Woodall's April 13, 2022, deposition in that case, provided to PolitiFact by Milwaukee Assistant City Attorney Peter Block. But it wasn’tin the context Bernegger described in his X post

Bernegger asked about an absentee ballot application, which Woodall said are used for voters seeking in-person absentee ballots. Bernegger asked how many were accepted by Woodall's office in the November 2020 election, and she said between 60,000 and 64,000. She did not, however, say anything about printing those ballots in a City Hall back room. 

Block said the Milwaukee County Circuit Court ruled against Bernegger and dismissed the case last year, but Bernegger has appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which has not reached a decision.

Fleming said it’s not physically or logistically possible for the city to print 64,000 ballots in a back room at City Hall.

"The city does not maintain commercial printing capabilities, which would be needed to print tens-of-thousands of ballots," he said.

All ballots are printed by city vendors, unless a ward exceeds anticipated turnout, Fleming said. In those cases, small batches of new ballots can be printed, he said.

"There would be dozens printed, not the thousands that are falsely claimed," Fleming said.

Our ruling

An X post claimed the Milwaukee Election Commission’s executive director was fired after she "printed 64,000 ballots in a back room at City Hall in Milwaukee and had random employees fill them out," giving Biden a lead in the 2020 election.

The 64,000 figure originated from an X post by a man who has been convicted of fraud and currently faces felony charges in Wisconsin of simulating a legal process. He has filed at least 18 lawsuits against Wisconsin election officials and has been fined by a state commission for making frivolous claims. None of them have produced evidence that Woodall printed 64,000 ballots.

A mayoral spokesperson said Woodall was not replaced as director because of any improper conduct during the election, and that the city lacks the capability to print that many ballots.

We rate this claim False.

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this fact-check.

Our Sources

X post, May 6, 2024 (archived)

Peter Bernegger, X post, May 6, 2024

Peter Bernegger, X post, May 6, 2024

The Associated Press, Replacement of Milwaukee election official unrelated to 2020 election, May 13, 2024

The Associated Press, Milwaukee election leader ousted 6 months before election in presidential swing state, May 6, 2024

The Associated Press, Wisconsin certifies Joe Biden as winner following recount, Nov. 30, 2020

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson replaces elections chief Claire Woodall, May 6, 2024

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Who is Claire Woodall? What to know about the Milwaukee election official being replaced, May 6, 2024

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, What we know about Milwaukee's election plans after Claire Woodall, May 9, 2024

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Republican lawmakers are seeking help from a felon who was convicted of fraud as they review the 2020 election, Feb. 8, 2022

The Guardian, How one Wisconsin man plagued election offices and stoked mistrust, April 27, 2024

WisPolitics, Milwaukee Mayor Johnson: Appoints new senior administration officials, May 6, 2024

Wisconsin Public Radio, Man who gave testimony to Assembly committee on 2020 election fined by Elections Commission for frivolous claims, April 7, 2022

WISN-12, Milwaukee Election Commission transition: Paulina Gutiérrez to replace Claire Woodall, May 6, 2024

Email interview, Claire Woodall, former Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director, May 20, 2024

Phone interview, Paulina Gutierrez, Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director, May 20, 2024

Email interview, Jeff Fleming, Milwaukee Mayor’s Office spokesperson, May 17, 2024

Email exchange, Milwaukee Assistant City Attorney Peter Block, May 20, 2024

State of Wisconsin Circuit Court, Peter Bernegger vs. Claire Woodall-Vogg, Dec. 16, 2021

Deposition of Claire Woodall in Peter Bernegger vs. Claire Woodall-Vogg, April 13, 2022

Wisconsin Circuit Court Access, Dane County Case Number 2024CF000328 State of Wisconsin vs. Peter M Bernegger, accessed May 20, 2024

State of Wisconsin Criminal Complaint, State of Wisconsin Plaintiff vs. Peter M. Bernegger, April 1, 2024

Wisconsin Elections Commission, Why did Milwaukee County report so many ballots for Democrats in the middle of the night?, Nov. 4, 2020

Wisconsin Legislature, 946.68  Simulating legal process., accessed May 20, 2024

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No, Milwaukee’s election chief did not print 64,000 ballots to force a Biden win

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