Fact check: Wisconsin county did not have a glitch that stole votes from Trump

Eric Litke

The claim: "System ‘Glitch’ Also Uncovered In Wisconsin – Reversal of Swapped Votes Removes Lead from Joe Biden"

The latest baseless Wisconsin voter fraud claim centers on Rock County, where Eric Trump and other conservatives say they have uncovered votes that switched from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.

Eric Trump, the president’s son and adviser, tweeted this claim late on Monday, citing a story earlier that night from The Gateway Pundit. That headline blared: "BREAKING EXCLUSIVE: System ‘Glitch’ Also Uncovered In Wisconsin – Reversal of Swapped Votes Removes Lead from Joe Biden."

Eric Trump and Gateway Pundit have both circulated misinformation since the election, claiming voter fraud without evidence – or even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.

Rock County votes were accurately recorded. 

Here’s what actually happened.

A woman casts her ballot at Tippecanoe Library on the first day of in-person early voting for the November 3rd elections in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 20, 2020.

The claim

Gateway Pundit’s article claims the organization “identified approximately 10,000 votes that were moved from President Trump to Biden in just one Wisconsin County.”

The site presents as evidence two screenshots from Fox News’ election results showing Trump listed with 46,649 votes at 11:43 p.m. CST on Nov. 3, compared with 37,133 for Biden. Those numbers then switched in a screenshot with a time of 11:57 p.m.

Since current counts show Biden leading in Wisconsin by just 20,540 votes, the article notes switching those 9,516 votes back to Trump and away from Biden would make the state a virtual tie.

But this projection makes sense only if Trump rightfully received those votes. And he didn’t.

The article does not include any discussion of why those votes flipped, or interviews with election officials. Here’s what Gateway Pundit would have found if it had done that research.

USA TODAY reached out to Gateway Pundit and Eric Trump for comment.

More:Fact check: That spike in the Wisconsin vote tally was expected and legitimate, not fraud

More:Fact check: Wisconsin has more registered voters than ballots cast

Media error led to brief number swap

Vote totals reported by The Associated Press create the stream of data used by Fox News and many other election websites on Election Day.

For Rock County, Wisconsin, that stream showed a steady increase for both Trump and Biden from the first report around 8:30 p.m. CST until the last one just before midnight.

When the final vote tallies were reported at 11:43 p.m. – after poll workers tabulated the absentee ballots – Biden’s total jumped from 30,453 to 46,649, while Trump’s jumped from 31,343 to 37,133. (That difference in absentee ballots is consistent with the rest of the state and nation, as Trump had repeatedly urged his supporters not to use mail-in votes while Biden and Democrats had encouraged absentee balloting.)

The Rock County Clerk’s Office website shows those tallies for the two candidates and has not been updated since 11:43 p.m. on Election Day, Clerk Lisa Tollefson said.

However, The Associated Press sent an update at 11:45 p.m. that transposed the numbers, wrongly assigning the 37,133 total to Biden and the 46,649 total to Trump. That was corrected minutes later to correctly show Trump losing by 9,516 votes.

Voters cast their ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, at East Junior High School in Wisconsin Rapids.

That data is entered by the AP based on the clerk’s website, without involvement from election officials.

“There was a brief technical error in AP’s collection of the vote count in Rock County, Wisconsin, that was quickly corrected,” Patrick Maks, AP spokesman, said in an email to the USA TODAY Network. “AP has myriad checks and redundancies in place to ensure the integrity of the vote count reporting. We are confident in what we have delivered to customers.”

In other words, the “glitch” was in a media system, not a voting system. The wrong numbers were briefly loaded into an array of media websites, but the numbers were never counted or reported incorrectly by Rock County.

“Everybody’s human, but maybe you should check your source instead of jumping to conclusions,” Tollefson said of the voter fraud claim.

The 55%-44% margin in Biden’s favor is in line with the 2016 election, when Trump drew 41% of the vote, compared with 52% for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Our ruling: False

We rate this claim FALSE because it is not supported by our research. There was no glitch in the election system. And there’s no “gotcha” moment or evidence that will move votes over to Trump’s column.

The presidential totals were transposed for several minutes because a data entry error by The Associated Press, without any involvement by election officials. The votes were counted following standard procedures by the Rock County Clerk’s Office and show Biden winning the county by a margin of more than 9,000 votes.

Our fact-check sources:

Contact Eric Litke at (414) 225-5061 or elitke@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ericlitke.

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