Social media users are sharing an article that claims Wisconsin’s Racine County GOP (Republican Party) found 23,000 voters with the same phone number, and 4,000 voters registered on Jan. 1, 1918. The article asserts this is evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election, but Wisconsin election officials say this is not true.
The text of one post reads: “Wisconsin’s Racine County GOP Finds 23,000 Voters with the Same Phone Number and 4,000 Voters Registered on 1/1/1918 (Biden Awarded State by 20,000 Votes). And this is only one county.”
The claims appear to stem from a Gateway Pundit article (archive.ph/fL1Ii) with the headline: “Wisconsin’s Racine County GOP Finds 23,000 Voters with the Same Phone Number and 4,000 Voters Registered on 1/1/1918 (Biden Awarded State by 20,000 Votes).”
The article includes a press release by Racine County GOP with several claims about election fraud. This fact check will focus on the claims that over 23,000 registered voters had the same phone number and that over 4,000 had the same registration date as Jan 1, 1918.
SAME PHONE NUMBERS
The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) addressed the claim about registered voters having the same phone number on its website, elections.wi.gov/faq/2020 . The WEC confirmed to Reuters this website contains up-to-date information.
According to the website, before 2005, municipalities in Wisconsin with a population of less than 5,000 did not require voter registration. For municipalities with a population of more than 5,000, voters were registered in a number of independent databases.
This changed with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) (here), which required statewide voter registration. The WEC (formerly the Government Accountability Board and before that the State Elections Board) created a voter registration database for the state called SVRS, since superseded by WisVote.
By 2006, when statewide voter registration was fully implemented, municipalities of more than 5,000 people had to transfer their own voter registration databases (referred to as “legacy systems” by the Commission) to SVRS.
The WEC explained that phone numbers are not a current requirement of voter registration, but municipalities that previously required one may have entered a default number in their legacy databases when the information was missing.
The FAQ page says: “A recent blog post from an advocacy group stated that over 20,000 records in the city of Racine had the same phone number associated with a voter record. The reality is that nearly all of those records referenced are Inactive Voter Records tied to voters who have been inactive for many years. The phone number in question is a city of Racine number that appeared in the Racine legacy system, a number that was entered as a default when a voter did not provide a phone number during registration.”
The 384 active voters in Racine who still have the default phone number on their registration is due to them not having updated it, according to the Commission (elections.wi.gov/faq/2020).
Riley Vetterkind, a public information officer at the WEC, told Reuters via email that it is likely that the newly registered voters referenced in the GOP press release were in fact voters who had been previously registered.
“For a person who was registered to vote in Wisconsin at one point in time, then moved out of state or otherwise had their voter registration lapse, the old record would be merged with the new one upon re-registering to vote,” Vetterkind said. “So the phone number on the old record would carry over to the new one, unless supplanted by a new number.”
REGISTERED VOTERS WITH BIRTH DATES OF 1/1/1900 AND REGISTRATION DATES OF 1/1/1918
The commission also addressed claims that many registered voters had the same birth date of Jan. 1, 1900, and the voter registration date of Jan. 1, 1918 on the same FAQ page (elections.wi.gov/faq/2020).
“Default dates of birth and voter registration dates in the WisVote database is not a newly discovered issue or an indication of voter fraud,” the website reads. “This information has been in the State Voter Registration System (SVRS) and WisVote system since at least 2006 and is the result of data migration from over 200 different legacy voter registration systems maintained by individual municipalities that in 2005 were moved into the comprehensive statewide system.”
In cases where municipalities did not track a voter’s birth date or registration date, this default date was entered as the data was required for the SVRS. The default birth date and registration date is exactly 18 years apart, which is the required legal age to vote.
The default dates are amended as voters re-register due to a change of name or address, updating their records or being called to do so by municipal clerks, according to the commission.
However, in fall 2021, about 3,700 active voter records still contain the default birth date of Jan. 1, 1900 and 120,000 records show the default date of voter registration.
The website also adds, “Individuals and advocacy groups reporting that a 1/1/1900 date of birth or a 1/1/1918 registration date for a voter in WisVote is a sign of fraud, hacking or some other irregularity that impacted an election are unfortunately contributing to misinformation about Wisconsin elections, based on a lack of understanding of how SVRS and WisVote came into existence more than 15 years ago.”
Missing context. Records show that some registered voters have the same default phone number, birth date and voter registration date due to the way municipalities transferred previously recorded data to a statewide voter registration database.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.