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Fact Checking Claims About Wisconsin’s Number of Registered Voters
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Fact Checking Claims About Wisconsin’s Number of Registered Voters

Trump supporters keep making debunked claims.

On February 9, Peter Bernegger, spoke before the Wisconsin informational hearing of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, claiming to have evidence of voter fraud in the Wisconsin 2020 presidential election. 

Liz Harrington, Donald Trump’s chief spokeswoman, shared a short clip from the hearing that has now been viewed more than 33,000 times and shared close to 2,000 times on Twitter. In the viral clip, Bernegger points out what he believes to be a discrepancy between the number of registered voters and the number of adults in Wisconsin, saying that the “total count of registrants is 7.1 million registrants and it gets to the problem that we only have 4 million adults in the state of Wisconsin.”

Harrington similarly tweeted that: “Wisconsin has 4 million adults but 7.1 million voter registrations.”

This is a claim we’ve fact-checked before. We pointed out that it is true that Wisconsin has 4.5 million eligible voters, but, as of February 1, 2022, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, only 3,484,948 people are registered voters, with slightly more than  3.2 million votes cast in Wisconsin. 

(“The number of active registered voters in Wisconsin fluctuates all the time as new people register to vote, and as voters are removed from active status for any number of reasons,” a spokesperson for The Wisconsin Elections Commission told The Dispatch Fact Check in an email. “The number of registered voters typically will be highest around presidential elections.”)

Barry Burden, political science professor and the director of Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explained that the 7 million figure appears to come from “‘adding together the active and inactive registrants.’” 

Per the Wisconsin Elections Commission, there are around 3.6 million inactive voters and 3.5 million active registered voters. Burden told us via email that: “Inactive registrants are still listed in the statewide voter database so that the state has a record of them, but they are not eligible to vote, having been deactivated because they moved, died, failed to vote over a series of elections and did not respond to mailings, or other reasons.”

In an email to The Dispatch Fact Check, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission explained: “As of August 2021, there are 3.5 million active registered voters in Wisconsin. Only active registered voters appear on the poll book and are eligible to receive a ballot, either in-person or by absentee ballot.”

He continued: “The entire number of people in the statewide voter registration database is 7.1 million, which includes 3.6 million inactive voters. Again, inactive voters do not appear on poll books and are not eligible to receive a ballot.

“Wisconsin law requires that there be an active and an inactive voter list in part because a voter record is a historical record that cannot be deleted, and also because it allows your voter history to follow you when you move and reregister.”

If you have a claim you would like to see us fact check, please send us an email at factcheck@thedispatch.com. If you would like to suggest a correction to this piece or any other Dispatch article, please email corrections@thedispatch.com.

Khaya Himmelman is a fact checker for The Dispatch. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Barnard College.