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Wisconsin elections committee hears baseless voting claims from a convicted felon

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Soon after a man convicted of mail and bank fraud began a presentation Wednesday at an Assembly hearing featuring false and unprovable claims about the 2020 election, the committee’s Republican chair stopped him.

“I just want to mention that any of the material that is presented today is not a direct complaint against any individuals themselves,” said Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls.

A small percentage of voters and witnesses made mistakes on their absentee ballot certificates in 2020. Here are some examples of the kinds of errors that were either allowed or corrected by the clerk in order to permit the ballot to be counted.

The intention of the informational hearing, Brandtjen said, was to raise questions about the election system.

The sole presenter — Peter Bernegger, who was convicted in federal court in Mississippi in 2009 for making fraudulent claims to investors in his business — submitted findings from a report, he said, that had been generated with the help of 1,500 Wisconsinites who meticulously checked the state’s voting database.

“Someone — we don’t know who — someone is using our systems, our databases, to cast illegal ballots,” Bernegger said.

There is no evidence behind somebody hacking into the voter database to illegally cast multiple ballots.

Referring to potentially fake voters, he also said he could not find evidence that a registered voter named Ambrose Aadventure existed.

However, Aadventure, formerly known as Cory Wierl, does exist: He changed his name in June 2020.

“I think this is an important point, right?” committee member Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said at the hearing. “This is exactly what I’m concerned about. Let’s not draw conclusions about whether people voted legally because you could not find them.”

Reviews by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty found no evidence of widespread fraud. Multiple court rulings have also found no evidence of irregularities.

Further, the results of the 2020 election have been confirmed by county canvassing boards, recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties, post-election audits by local and state election authorities and a voting equipment audit by the elections commission.

Asked why the man presented more dubious findings than questions at a hearing purportedly about raising questions, Brandtjen said, “There were questions on the data.”

Committee member Rep. David Murphy, R-Greenville, said the goal was to put forth ideas rather than look for specific proof.

“Evidence always doesn’t lead to proof but as we put lots of evidence together, I mean, that’s what we’re trying to do, and I think we are coming up with a fair amount of very intriguing pieces of evidence,” Murphy said.

No documentation

Evidence, also known as provable fact in an investigation, was in short supply at Wednesday’s hearing.

For example, Bernegger said he referred hundreds of potentially criminal matters to law enforcement, but didn’t provide specific examples.

Later in the hearing, Brandtjen again clarified that “we” are not drawing specific conclusions about any one person — just asking questions.

“On one hand, you’re saying there’s no conclusions about fraud, but the speaker is presenting it as if there are conclusions that have been drawn,” Subeck replied. “And while that may be his conclusions, we certainly haven’t seen any documentation to back that up, nor have we seen law enforcement prosecutions to back that up.”

“When people bring forward claims of election misconduct supported by detailed evidence, the Wisconsin Elections Commission takes those claims seriously by investigating and referring to law enforcement,” commission spokesperson Riley Vetterkind said in a statement. “Administrator (Meagan) Wolfe looks forward to clearing up misunderstandings about Wisconsin’s voter database at an Assembly elections committee hearing next week.”

Support for Ramthun

Before the hearing Wednesday, Brandtjen called for the Assembly leadership to restore the staffer of a representative who has continually said false claims regarding the 2020 election.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, stripped Rep. Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, of his lone staff member in late January because of his false accusations that Vos had signed a deal with attorneys for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to authorize absentee ballot drop boxes, Vos’ office said.

But Brandtjen said Ramthun and his district still need a staffer.

“Regardless of any contentious issue or which side of the aisle a representative may be on, everyone in Wisconsin deserves to have access to government agencies,” Brandtjen said.

Days after his staffer’s removal, Ramthun proposed a resolution aimed at “reclaiming” the state’s 10 electoral college votes granted to Biden. Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, who vowed to kill Ramthun’s proposal, has said the resolution’s intent was “illegal” and “just plain unconstitutional.”

Ramthun is planning to run for governor, according to a new campaign website.

The 2020 election is over. Here’s what happened (and what didn’t)

The 2020 election was “the most secure in American history,” according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which coordinates the nation’s election infrastructure.

While a handful of voters risked going to prison by attempting to vote twice or in the name of a dead relative, as happens in any election, no evidence of widespread fraud has ever been produced in Wisconsin or elsewhere.

Yet, many continue to question some of the practices clerks relied on to encourage eligible voters to cast ballots and make sure their votes were counted amid the first election in more than 100 years held during a pandemic.

The Wisconsin State Journal has covered every twist and turn of this debate in scores of stories. But here are a few that offered some broader context about what happened, and didn't happen, in the election of 2020.

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The state has multiple, overlapping safeguards aimed at preventing ineligible voters from casting ballots, tampering with the ballots or altering vote totals.

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Nothing in the emails suggests there were problems with the election that contributed in any meaningful way to Trump's 20,682-vote loss to Joe Biden.

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"Despite concerns with statewide elections procedures, this audit showed us that the election was largely safe and secure," Sen. Rob Cowles said Friday.

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The grants were provided to every Wisconsin municipality that asked for them, and in the amounts they asked for. 

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"Application of the U.S. Department of Justice guidance among the clerks in Wisconsin is not uniform," the memo says.

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YORKVILLE — The Racine County Sheriff’s Office announced in a Thursday morning news conference that it has identified eight cases of what it believes to be election fraud at a Mount Pleasant nursing home.

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The memo states that state law gives the Audit Bureau complete access to all records during an audit investigation and federal law and guidance does not prohibit an election official from handing over election records.

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Drop boxes were used throughout Wisconsin, including in areas where Trump won the vast majority of counties.

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"I don't think that you instill confidence in a process by kind of blindly assuming there's nothing to see here," WILL president and general counsel Rick Esenberg said.

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The report is the latest to show that there was not widespread fraud in Wisconsin.

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The clear insinuation was that someone not qualified to conduct an election improperly influenced these vulnerable voters. But the Wisconsin State Journal could not confirm the data. 

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The turnout at nursing homes in Brown, Kenosha, Milwaukee and Racine counties in 2020 was not much different from the turnout in 2016.

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