The non-partisan Legislative Audit Office report made dozens of recommendations on how the state could improve its elections. He also determined that dozens of voting machines he examined were functioning properly. Some Conservatives have called for revisions to all voting machines.
“Despite concerns about statewide election procedures, this audit showed us that the election was largely safe and secure,” tweeted Republican State Senator Robert Cowles, who co-chairs the Legislative Assembly Audit Committee, which tasked the audit office to conduct the review. “I hope we can now consider changes to the electoral law and agency accountability measures in a bipartisan fashion based on these non-partisan recommendations.”
The audit provided no evidence that the election won by President Joe Biden was “stolen” from Donald Trump, as Trump and some other conservatives falsely claimed. Biden’s victory of about 21,000 votes over Trump in Wisconsin has withstood recounts and several court rulings.
Democrats hailed the audit as proof that the elections are safe, secure and accurate, but said they fear Republicans will select the results to sow suspicion.
The Audit Office report identified inconsistent administration of the electoral law based on ballot surveys it reviewed statewide. He made 30 recommendations for the Wisconsin Election Commission to consider and 18 possible legal changes for the legislature to consider.
Republican State Senator Kathy Bernier, former county election clerk and current chair of the Senate Elections Committee, said the audit “did not reveal any significant or organized attempts at voter fraud.” But it showed a “sloppy” and inconsistent election administration that needs to be corrected, she said.
Republican State Representative Samantha Kerkman, the other co-chair of the audit committee, said the report would serve as a “blueprint” for the legislature to address identified areas where current electoral law is not being followed .
“It is extremely important that we restore confidence in our electoral process,” she said.
Unusually, state auditors did not give election officials under review an opportunity to respond and have their comments form part of the report. The Audit Office said it did not solicit comments because so many people were involved in the audit, it would have compromised the confidentiality of its work.
Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the Wisconsin electoral commissions who oversees the state’s elections, called the decision a “missed opportunity” and that the agency is still reviewing the 168-page report to determine its response.
The report is one of two surveys conducted in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos ordered a second investigation after Trump criticized him for doing too little to control the election. The investigation is overseen by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Tory Justice Michael Gableman, who said last year he believed the election was stolen.
Vos said the audit showed the need for further investigation into the election.
Wisconsin Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul on Thursday asked a court to block a subpoena for Wolfe, the state’s top election official, issued by Gableman. A judge has scheduled a hearing on Monday on the request.
Gableman did not immediately respond to a message on Friday seeking comment.
Wisconsin is one of many states to investigate the 2020 presidential election.
The audit said the election commission is expected to issue a rule, which would require legislative approval, indicating whether local election clerks can fill in missing information on mail ballots or allow drop boxes.
The audit examined a sample of 14,710 mail-in ballots that were cast in 29 municipalities in Wisconsin. He found that almost 7%, or 1,022 ballots, had partial signatures of witnesses; only 15 ballots did not have a full witness statement; eight did not have a witness signature and three did not have a voter signature.
He also found that state law requires clerks to write their initials on postal voting certificates in certain situations, but less than 1% of the ballots examined were initialed.
The audit also found only 24 people who could have two active voter registrations and of these, only four who could have voted twice. The names of the four people, who were not included in the audit summary, were passed to the electoral commission, which could pass them on to local prosecutors.
The results confirm the fact that few cases of voter fraud have been charged in Wisconsin. Only four cases have been brought to date, including one involving a man accused of voting twice. It was not immediately clear whether this man’s case was among the four uncovered by the audit.