How prevalent is voter fraud?: According to Wisconsin Elections data, it’s not

Data collected on voter fraud shows issue does not impact election results; experts say Wisconsin's system is secure and accurate
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) –  People have concerns about whether their vote will be counted accurately every election cycle. Wisconsin has some of the most strict voter ID laws in the country to stop voter fraud.

Voter fraud can happen, but it’s the number of times it actually does that doesn’t align with what some politicians say.

“Voter fraud doesn’t exist in widespread numbers,” said Anthony Chergosky, a political science professor at UW-La Crosse.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Public Information Officer Reid Magney said there still are people who try to cheat the system.

“Voter fraud is an exceedingly small issue in Wisconsin,” Magney said. “Unfortunately sometimes a few slip through the cracks.”

According to a report on suspected voter fraud done by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the number of suspected voter fraud during the 2016 general election amounted to 61 out of nearly 3 million total votes cast.  That’s .00204 percent of the total votes cast.

In the 2018 general election, there were 14 suspected instances out of 2.67 million votes cast, representing .00052 percent of the total votes cast. From January 30, 2016, through February 15, 2017, there were fewer than 200 suspected voter fraud cases or violations. Those are suspected but not necessarily proven cases.

“It doesn’t mean there’s an actual crime there,” Magney said. “It means that something didn’t look right.”

He said the numbers are likely much lower.

“It’s a couple of times a year,” he said. “It’s very small numbers.”

La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke told News 8 Now La Crosse County experiences fewer than five voting violations per election. Nationwide the U.S. Department of Justice under the George W. Bush administration found 26 people who were guilty of voter fraud in two federal elections.

Strict voter ID laws for the wrong reasons create greater challenges for eligible voters in the state, according to Chergosky.

“If you’re putting onerous restrictions on people in response to 60 to 70 documented cases of voter fraud, then I think it is questionable if you’re doing more harm than good,” Chergosky said.

The New York Times highlighted a federal court study in Wisconsin in 2014. It found 300,000 registered voters didn’t have any of the required IDs to vote.

Chergosky would not speculate on the motive of politicians to mislead the public on voter fraud. Even with more absentee ballots going out than usual, he said Wisconsin’s system is set up for an accurate count.

“My concerns with the integrity with this election are, will people accept the outcome of the election?” Chergosky said.

Magney said for those who still don’t trust the system, ballot counting is a public process. People can go to their local election site and watch the counting process for themselves.

“You can be there to see them print out the results of the election and read them aloud,” Magney said.

Magney and Chergosky say an election would have to be decided by 15 total votes to have a problem. The 2016 presidential election was a close race decided by 23,000 votes in Wisconsin.
Magney said he is not aware of voter fraud having an impact on an election. Every vote in Wisconsin is triple checked by local and state officials.

For more detailed Wisconsin election information visit elections.wi.gov/2020.