Why we removed an article about “election integrity” in Wisconsin from our website

Last Friday, an article we had posted on our site was replaced with an editor’s note that simply stated that we had removed the article “while reviewing the news gathering process used to create it.”

The article, written by a States Newsroom reporter, describes an online meeting of a national voter fraud enforcement group during which the chairman of the Wisconsin Assembly’s Committee on Campaigns and Elections, Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa), presented his plan to search and clear foreign nationals on the voter rolls state of Wisconsin.

Shortly after we published this story, a representative from the Election Integrity Network sent us an email demanding that we immediately retract the story.

The group did not dispute any of the facts in this story. But he objected to a reporter joining the conversation, noting that “no media can participate in our conversations,” their conversations are “off the record” and “no notes or comments can be posted in any public place.”

The national editors of States Newsroom and the head of the Washington Bureau agreed that participating in the interview without identifying yourself as a reporter violated our ethical policy, which states: “Our journalists will never pretend to be false in order to obtain an interview or a story. If we record an interview, we will inform all sources. We don’t operate hidden cameras, we don’t go undercover and we don’t pay for interviews.”

We removed the story but did not file an appeal.

The need to write down history is painful – even more so in this case, which concerns a reportage that touches on the core of the current battle for the future of democracy in our country and nation. However, our ethics policy and commitment to admitting when we make mistakes are part of our greater commitment to accuracy, transparency and the trust we have in our readers. We are not an opposition research organization or strike team. We strive to maintain the highest standards of journalism.

This may not satisfy the Election Integrity Network, whose executive director Kerri Toloczko wrote in her letter demanding the retraction: “For the record, we are not “election deniers.” We have never denied that there are elections.”

In fact, the term “election deniers” accurately describes the Election Integrity Network, which, according to The New York Times reported, is “recruiting election conspirators into the organized cavalry of activists monitoring the elections.” The group’s founder Cleta Mitchell is one of the lawyers for former President Donald Trump, who made false claims of voter fraud, arguing that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Now he is working to undermine confidence in the next election.

“The only way they win is by cheating,” she said of Democrats, according to The Times article.

The non-citizen voting that took place turned out to be negligible in reviews in other states, that’s one of the issues the Trump campaign is preparing to operate in Wisconsin to challenge the 2024 election results as “fraud” if they don’t go Trump’s way.

Krug’s push to get the state Department of Transportation to share non-citizen driver records with him to compare against voter rolls to detect illegal voters, even if it fails, could lay the groundwork for a future lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s election results. That’s a huge deal in a state where the margins were slimmest in the last election.

In addition to raising pre-emptive doubts about the legitimacy of the election results and helping to set the stage for another January 6 insurrection, the issue of non-citizen voting is troubling because it focuses not on any actual, reported issue, but on suspicion and resentment toward immigrants.

The idea that immigrants are trying to steal the US election is an insidious smear.

Wisconsin already refuses to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Targeted people when looking for foreign drivers are immigrants who are legal residents, such as those with a green card. Voting as a foreigner is a crime. The idea that workers and enduring residents who have achieved the security of legal status would risk everything to cast illegal votes is preposterous.

As Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton) put it down during a hearing on the case in May: “I try to imagine what people think would be the motivation for a non-citizen who would have to go through tremendous hardship to actively commit a crime to vote in an election that would put them in jail or deport them.” .

It’s disappointing that Krug is taking up this issue, let alone promoting it to a group of election deniers. Since becoming chairman of the Assembly elections committee, he has developed a reputation as a reserved, bipartisan problem solver, in stark contrast to his predecessor, Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), one of the Legislature’s representatives the most outspoken election deniers and a supporter of unconventional conspiracy theories.

One of the missed opportunities in the article we removed from our site was the chance to interview Krug, who made himself available to the press.

Examiner Reporter Henry Redman followed him this week, and Krug insisted he was open to learning that there was actually no problem with foreigners voting. My only goal is that if there’s something there, I want to show it,” he told Redman. “If it’s not there, I want to show it. Some say it’s not a problem. I always tell them: what’s the pain in collecting all the data and finding out whether something like this happened or not? To me, disproving something is as valuable as proving something.”

It’s unclear whether Krug will even get the records he’s looking for. He told Redman that he was “making progress” in his efforts to obtain a database of foreign drivers from the Department of Transportation. However, there is reason for skepticism that the agency will be willing to risk stiff penalties for violating the self-described federal Driver Privacy Act website.

We will continue to follow the story.

Toloczko, of the Election Integrity Network, did not respond to an email asking why the meeting with lawmakers about public policy proposals was kept secret at all.

However, Krug told Redman that he was not the one disputing the article, which we removed. He stated that he had already presented all his comments in a public forum anyway. His main complaint was that the reporter “didn’t even ask for a comment.”

I’m glad we can fix it.

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. If you have any questions, please contact editor Ruth Conniff: [email protected]. Follow the Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook AND X.

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