Election officials debunk false election claims for Wisconsin lawmakers
MADISON — Wisconsin election officials debunked a number of myths and false claims about the state’s electoral rolls before a Legislative Committee on Wednesday, but said they felt the need to address some narrow issues.
Two senior officials from the Wisconsin Electoral Commission testified before a Legislative Committee a week after Republican lawmakers intervened a presentation by a criminal convicted of fraud who alleged widespread voter improprieties.
“I believe it’s important to partially address questions and concerns to differentiate between real issues — worth our energy — and untruths that cause us to waste countless hours chasing ghosts,” said Robert Kehoe, director of technology the commission. “If we don’t make that distinction, Wisconsin has missed an opportunity to address real concerns while also focusing on imaginary fears.”
From there, Kehoe proceeded to tear apart some of the examples made a week ago by Peter Bernegger, who helps to lead a group of citizens who has spent the past year analyzing election data. Bernegger was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison in 2009 for mail fraud and bank fraud.
Both Bernegger and Kehoe testified before the assembly’s election committee.
Bernegger questioned whether a voter with the surname Aadventure was a real person. Kehoe realized within minutes that he could use public information to find out that a man had legally changed his name to Aadventure and used that name to register to vote.
Bernegger said he couldn’t see more than 350 people registered to vote using a street name in Somers because the street name was changed more than a decade ago. Kehoe said the number isn’t unusual given the address is part of a huge apartment complex on the University of Wisconsin-Parkside campus.
Similarly, Bernegger questioned how hundreds of voters could share the same address in Madison. That address is an apartment complex near the UW-Madison campus where more than 800 voters are registered to vote, Kehoe said.
Bernegger gave examples of people with the same name, address, and phone number who registered to vote around the same time. Kehoe checked these names and found that they have different dates of birth, often some 25 years apart.
“I feel like all of these voters have a name and live in the same house because they’re related,” Kehoe said.
Kehoe said he could not scrutinize other claims made by Bernegger and others because they were broad, vague, and in many cases “fantastic.” He said such allegations hurt efforts to identify real issues.
Rep. David Murphy, a Greenville Republican who sits on the committee, said he knew from the start that some of Bernegger’s claims would not materialize.
“It was more about volume than accuracy,” Murphy said of Bernegger. “I knew some of them were wrong.”
Kehoe and commission director Meagan Wolfe’s presentation on Wednesday came as Republicans attack the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Recounts and court rulings confirmed Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the state by nearly 21,000 votes. Independent reviews have found no evidence of significant fraud.
Assembly Republicans are not happy with these results. They have hired a former state Supreme Court Justice at taxpayer expense to investigate Saturday’s election and one of its members, Campbellsport’s Rep. Timothy Ramthun launched a campaign for governor focused on the notion of revoking the state’s 10 electoral votes. Impartial lawyers have said there is no legal way to do this.
Trade addresses are a problem
Kehoe said Bernegger encountered at least one real problem — people registering to vote at business addresses like UPS stores. State law requires voters to use their addresses where they actually live.
Fond du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney last week five people charged with registering to vote on a UPS store Address based on a tip from Bernegger. Toney is a Republican running for Attorney General.
Kehoe said dealing with business addresses is difficult. The election commission compares the addresses with the data from the State Office for Motor Vehicles, but the DMV does not differentiate between residential and business addresses.
Some addresses share both residential and commercial components, such as B. Apartments above storefronts, Kehoe said. He said the commission is looking into whether it can flag addresses known to be purely commercial.