False claims of Wisconsin voter fraud rely on wrong numbers

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FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, voters wait in line outside a polling center on Election Day, in Kenosha, Wis. Posts shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are falsely claiming that an impossible number of people cast ballots in Wisconsin. Meagan Wolfe, the states top elections official, addressed the social media rumors Thursday, Nov. 5, saying: Wisconsin does not have more votes than registered voters. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

Posts shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are falsely claiming that the number of people who cast ballots in Wisconsin exceeds the number of registered voters in the state.

A variety of misleading claims about voter turnout in Wisconsin gained traction, generating likes, shares or comments by the hundreds of thousands, after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pulled off a narrow win Wednesday in the battleground state.

The posts fueled charges that the vote had been mismanaged in a crucial swing state in the U.S. election.

“Looks like fraud!” Eric Trump, President Donald Trump’s son, wrote in a post shared to his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The image Eric Trump shared in his post claimed that there was a huge, inexplicable increase in voter turnout in Wisconsin this year. The image showed voter turnout percentages during presidential elections over the last 20 years in Wisconsin, with voter turnout hitting 89.25% this year. But in previous years, the post claimed incorrectly, turnout had only hovered between 67% to 73%.

The image is based on faulty accounting of voter turnout in the state.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission calculates voter turnout based on the entire voting-age population, not just registered voters. Any eligible person over the age of 18 can show up at a poll and register to vote on Election Day.

As of Thursday, the number of votes cast looked to be nearly 3.3 million, the highest ever in Wisconsin. That puts turnout at roughly 72% of the voting-age population. In 2004 the turnout was higher, with 73% of the voting-age population showing up to vote.