The landscape in Wisconsin
Wisconsin was one of the first major sites of election denial after the 2020 presidential election. After Joe Biden narrowly carried the state, a group of Trump allies attempted to discredit the election process and challenge the official election results, despite lacking factual basis for their allegations. Ten “fake electors” convened, claiming to be an alternate slate of electors for Trump in Wisconsin, to sign and submit a forged Electoral College certificate which did not reflect the decision of the state’s voters. Additionally, 15 state legislators signed a letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging him to delay the counting of electoral votes for at least 10 days to allow the state legislature time to certify or decertify the election.
Refusing to accept the truth after these attempts were stopped, the state Assembly speaker named Michael Gableman, a former state Supreme Court justice, to look into the results. He was fired after spending more than $1 million of taxpayer money and finding “absolutely no evidence of election fraud.”
Some Republican lawmakers have also sought to remove the state’s nonpartisan top election official, Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, who has pushed back against lies about the state’s free and fair elections. The commission’s responsibilities include making sure election results are accurate. One of its members, Robert F. Spindell Jr., is an Election Denier who served as one of the fake electors in 2020.
Republican lawmakers also backed away from a threat to impeach Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal state Supreme Court justice, before the court hears a case on the state’s gerrymandered maps. And vigilante Election Deniers have bombarded election officials with records requests.
Derrick Van Orden, who attended the rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, and then marched to the Capitol, was later elected to Congress. He described his activity on Jan. 6 as standing up for “electoral integrity.” At least nine people have been arrested in Wisconsin and charged with crimes in relation to the attack. And two members of Wisconsin’s House delegation at the time were among the 147 Republicans who voted to throw out valid election results, even after the violence.
1 Election Denier holds statewide Office right now.
Elections are run by the states. In Wisconsin, the Governor, Attorney General, and administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) are the state officials responsible for overseeing elections. In most states, the Secretary of State is the chief election official. Wisconsin is an exception: The Administrator of WEC holds that power. This nonpartisan Administrator is appointed by the Commission and confirmed by the state Senate. It’s up to all of them to make sure the will of the people is always respected.
Read more about The Roles of Our Elected Officials in Elections
State Elections Board of Wisconsin
Term started 2019
Term ends 2026
Taken action to undermine the integrity of the 2020 presidential election or subsequent election cycles, including:
Filing or supporting litigation seeking to overturn the results based on conspiracies or baseless legal theories.
Filing or supporting litigation that was sanctioned for being malicious or without merit in the aftermath of an election.
Promoting or participating in a Stop the Steal–sponsored or branded event or rally during or following the 2020 election.
Calling for a “forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election or a race in subsequent elections after the results were certified, were officially audited, or stood up to multiple legal challenges.
Falsely claimed former President Trump won the 2020 presidential election instead of the legitimate winner, President Biden.
Spread lies or promoted conspiracies about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election or subsequent election cycles in public, including in social media, press statements, or comments to the press.
Refused to certify, or called on or pressured election officials to refuse to certify, the 2020 presidential election results or a race in subsequent elections based on meritless claims about election fraud, voter fraud, misinformation, or lies.
Refused to concede a race, or publicly supported a candidate’s refusal to concede a race, after the results were officially audited or stood up to multiple legal challenges.
How Wisconsin compares
Every state runs its own elections, with its own laws and processes. Check out how Wisconsin compares with other states in its region when it comes to Election Deniers holding state election administration jobs.
Election Denial in Great Lakes States
State Elections Board
|Moreinformation about Illinois|
|Moreinformation about Indiana|
|Moreinformation about Michigan|
|Moreinformation about Ohio|
State Elections Board
|Moreinformation about Wisconsin|
Sitting official is an Election Denier
- In Illinois, the Executive Director is appointed by the Illinois State Board of Elections.
- In Wisconsin, the Administrator is appointed by the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Voter turnout over time
Voters are always the backstop against election denial, whether Election Deniers are already in office or vying for power. It’s important to turn out for every election in your state—and to vote in every race on your ballot. Downballot races, like contests for Attorney General and Secretary of State, have historically drawn fewer voters, even though the positions are critical to keeping elections free, fair, and secure. Here’s a look at voter participation in Wisconsin elections over time. Notice that in years with several important positions up for election, some voters choose not to vote in every race.
Data on the number of votes cast in each race are from state elections depositories, supplemented with data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), House Election Statistics, and The Book of States. Rates are calculated using the Census’s Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) estimates. Rates will be updated when the Census releases new CVAP data for 2022.
Beyond the ballot box
Each year, state legislators introduce thousands of bills related to elections. And in the past few years, we’ve identified a concerning trend. Across the country, state legislatures are considering bills that would make it easier for partisan actors to manipulate an election, and maybe even overturn the will of the people. We’re tracking these bills along with our partners in an ongoing series of reports called “A Democracy Crisis in the Making.” In 2023 alone, through early May, we tracked 185 bills introduced in 38 state legislatures that would politicize, criminalize, or interfere with elections.
The anti-democracy playbook is simple: change the rules and change the referees, in order to change the results. These bills go hand-in-hand with the Election Denier movement: They’re about taking power away from voters and making it harder for trusted election officials to do their jobs.