Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have ordered an audit of the state’s election system in the wake of the 2020 presidential election and the prevalence of conspiracy theories about its results.
The state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted six to four along party lines to order the audit, which will be conducted by the Legislative Audit Bureau, a non-partisan body that enjoys the trust of both Republicans and Democrats.
All four Democrats on the committee voted against the audit, however, and voiced concerns that it could further undermine trust in the system. There have been widespread unsubstantiated allegations of nationwide voter fraud since the November election.
State auditor Joe Chrisman will supervise the audit and it will examine how the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) and local clerks complied with election laws.
It will also be tasked with looking into electronic voting machines and complaints made about the election process by members of the public in Wisconsin.
The audit is expected to be completed by the fall of 2021 and may report its findings on an ongoing basis. It could also study other matters related to the election system.
“We’ve given him a broad brush,” said State Rep. Samantha Kerkman, co-chair of Joint Legislative Audit Committee, according to Madison.com.
“I know that this audit will help people understand our elections better and hopefully put to rest concerns, and if there are some problems with administration, I’m confident we’ll fix them,” said State Senator Robert Cowles, the committee’s other co-chair.
While Democrats have expressed confidence in the Legislative Audit Bureau, they questioned the timing of the audit and worried about its effects, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
“I have serious concerns about the timing and subject of this audit,” said Democratic State Senator Melissa Agard. “Divisions are more pronounced now more than ever. My fear is—and I hope it’s just a fear—that this audit will create a vehicle for more distrust and more disinformation.”
“And I fear that this will lead to more doubts about future elections,” she said.
President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by a margin of 20,862 votes in 2020 and was awarded the state’s 10 Electoral College votes. Former President Donald Trump won the state in 2016 by less than one percent.
Formerly considered part of the “blue wall” of Democratic states, Wisconsin was crucial to Trump’s victory but opted for Biden just four years later in a major upset. Trump and some of his Republican allies have made unsubstantiated claims that the presidential election was “stolen” through voter fraud and other irregularities.
The state conducted recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties that did not see major changes in the outcome and a partial audit of voting machines conducted by the WEC found no problems.