State Capitol dome interior
The interior of the state Capitol dome in Madison. (Photo by Christina Lieffring)

Nonpartisan state bureau recommends Legislature or Elections Commission clarify rules on drop boxes, absentee ballots and more, but finds vote totals were accurate.

An audit of the 2020 election by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) found no evidence of systemic issues with voting machines or election administration but did recommend more clarity from the Legislature or the Wisconsin Elections Commission on issues such as drop boxes, and absentee ballots.

Some areas LAB said could use more clarity included whether witness addresses needed city, state and zip code information and guidance on when clerks may correct an incomplete ballot, such as an incomplete witness address. The report also recommended setting guidance for when voting deputies can and cannot be deployed to communal living facilities, such as assisted living centers, and if they cannot be deployed—such as during a pandemic—what clerks can do to make sure those residents are able to vote.

Reactions show the report had a little something for everyone: legislative Democrats emphasized the report’s finding that the vote count was secure and accurate.

“This report confirms that Wisconsin’s 2020 elections were fair, secure and accurate,” said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh). “The report also contradicts the disingenuous lies legislative Republicans have peddled for the last eleven months in their attempt to breed distrust in our democracy.” 

RELATED: Gableman’s Election Probe Started Out Badly. It’s Gotten Even Worse.

Democrats from the Joint Audit Committee, which commissioned the LAB to conduct the audit, including Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison), Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee), Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton), and Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison) stated the audit showed that “there is still no evidence to prove any claims that proponents of The Big Lie peddle.”

“It is time to put these falsehoods to rest,” the statement said. “Faced with impossible challenges, our clerks administered a safe, secure, and fair election… It is irresponsible, and simply untrue, for Republicans to continue insinuating that the 2020 election wasn’t administered appropriately. There was no fraud. The election administration was carried out with integrity and accuracy. End of story.”

Meanwhile legislative Republicans interpreted the calls for clarity as evidence election administration was inconsistent, even referring to legislation vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers which would have limited ballot access as “reforms.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) used the audit to justify the botched election investigation headed by former Justice Michael Gableman. 

Vote Totals Accurate

The Wisconsin Elections Commission released a statement clarifying that “the report made it clear that vote totals in the 2020 election were accurate, that no processes were identified that could have changed the outcome, and that no evidence of widespread fraud of any type was discovered.” 

The commission added that the report did not list election problems so much as it “highlighted opportunities to improve election processes and procedures, identifying several administrative issues worthy of review.”

WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe, who has been stating for months that the 2020 election was open, fair and accurate, stated she was disappointed that WEC was not asked to review the report before it came out. 

“Such important subject matter deserves careful and thoughtful review. Our initial scan of the report has identified several errors that we could have corrected earlier if we had been able to view the draft,” Wolfe said. “We’ll continue to review the full report in detail to determine our response.”