Wisconsin voter turnout: False claims of fraud rely on wrong numbers

A variety of misleading claims about voter turnout in Wisconsin gained traction after Joe Biden pulled off a narrow win Wednesday
CHICAGO -- Posts shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are falsely claiming that the number of people who cast ballots in Wisconsin exceeds the number of registered voters in the state.

A variety of misleading claims about voter turnout in Wisconsin gained traction, generating likes, shares or comments by the hundreds of thousands after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pulled off a narrow win Wednesday in the battleground state.

The posts fueled charges that the vote had been mismanaged in a crucial swing state in the U.S. election.

*Counties are colored red or blue when the % expected vote reporting reaches a set threshold. This threshold varies by state and is based on patterns of past vote reporting and expectations about how the vote will report this year.

"Looks like fraud!" Eric Trump, President Donald Trump's son, wrote in a post shared to his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The image Eric Trump shared in his post claimed that there was a huge, inexplicable increase in voter turnout in Wisconsin this year. The image showed voter turnout percentages during presidential elections over the last 20 years in Wisconsin, with voter turnout hitting 89.25% this year. But in previous years, the post claimed incorrectly, turnout had only hovered between 67% to 73%.

The image is based on faulty accounting of voter turnout in the state.

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ABC News said Joe Biden is the "apparent winner" in Wisconsin, though it has not made an official projection. In Kenosha, President Trump performed better than he did in 2016.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission calculates voter turnout based on the entire voting-age population, not just registered voters. Any eligible person over the age of 18 can show up at a poll and register to vote on Election Day.

As of Thursday, the number of votes cast looked to be nearly 3.3 million, the highest ever in Wisconsin. That puts turnout at roughly 72% of the voting-age population. In 2004 the turnout was higher, with 73% of the voting-age population showing up to vote.

Other social media users pushed claims of voter fraud in the state by wrongly suggesting that the number of ballots cast exceeded the number of registered voters.

One Twitter user wrongly claimed "fraud" and said that only 3,129,000 people were registered to vote in the state. That was the voter registration figure right before the 2018 midterm elections. But as of 7 p.m. on Sunday, the Wisconsin Elections Commission reported 3,684,726 registered voters.

And that figure - well above the 3,239,920 votes that were cast - does not include people who might have registered to vote on Election Day.

In other words, no fraud at play, just social media posts that relied on outdated numbers.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission received "a lot of calls" about the false rumors, said the state's top elections official Meagan Wolfe.

"Wisconsin does not have more votes than registered voters," Wolfe said. "Share the facts, rather than speculation or rumors."
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