A Wisconsin man is scanning ballots and suing a county clerk as he launches his own election review

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MADISON - Republican lawmakers aren't the only ones examining Wisconsin's presidential election.

A New London man has been making copies of ballots in some communities as he conducts his own review of an election Joe Biden narrowly won.

"Our intention is to have true and honest elections. You hear all kinds of rumors and we want to dispel some of those if they're not true," Peter Bernegger said when asked about his endeavor.

Bernegger declined to say what his plans are but said he would announce them in the coming weeks. Recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties and more than a half dozen lawsuits upheld Biden's victory.

Bernegger's push to inspect ballots comes as Republican lawmakers ramp up their own review of the election. They have hired former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman and former law enforcement officers at taxpayer expense to conduct their review as they decide whether to pass more election-related legislation.

Empt bins that once held ballots are shown during what is expected to be the final day of recounting Milwaukee County ballots Friday, November 29, 2020 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, WIs.
Empt bins that once held ballots are shown during what is expected to be the final day of recounting Milwaukee County ballots Friday, November 29, 2020 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, WIs.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester has acknowledged Biden won the election. That has won him enmity from former President Donald Trump, who has said Vos, Senate President Chris Kapenga of Delafield and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu of Oostburg haven't done enough to investigate the election.

More: Wisconsin Republicans, and a disgraced ex-Missouri governor, tour site of controversial Arizona ballot audit

Scanning and suing

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said last year's election was run properly but he worries efforts like Bernegger's undermine faith in it.

"One of the difficult things about conspiracy theories is they basically can't be disproved and all they do is cause doubt and distrust."

Bernegger sued Door County Clerk Jill Lau in May for copies of election documents. A judge has yet to rule.

He has made copies of ballots in at least two Dane County communities, Verona and Westport. He indicated he was collecting ballots in other counties but declined to say which ones.

Robert Anderson, the deputy clerk in Westport, said Bernegger told him he had plans to visit Brown County and hoped to eventually review 2 million of the 3.3 million ballots cast in the state.

Asked about that figure Thursday, Bernegger said he had "no knowledge of the total number" of ballots he would end up examining.

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Anderson said Bernegger asked to review the more than 3,000 ballots cast in Westport. Bernegger and three others spent about four hours there last month scanning copies on equipment they brought with them, Anderson said.

Anderson had three poll workers on hand to oversee the process. He charged Bernegger $135 to cover their pay, he said.

"They were just looking for stuff. He didn't give me specifics," Anderson said.

In Verona, Bernegger and a few others spent half a day scanning ballots from one ward, according to City Administrator Adam Sayre.

Dane County has posted images of every ballot cast in November on its website. Bernegger didn't say why he wanted to make his own copies instead of using those.

In his lawsuit in Door County, Bernegger wrote that he had asked to inspect and take photos of hard drives, memory sticks, election manuals, vote tabulations and other documents.

He wrote in the lawsuit that he had looked at some material during a "friendly meeting" at the clerk's office but that copies of many other records have not been provided.

Bernegger told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he is working with people of all political stripes but declined to disclose his own leanings. An online opinion piece posted under Bernegger's name in March questions the reliability of Wisconsin's elections, echoing themes that Trump routinely emphasizes.

"Here is the rigging I have found: numerous people showed up on election day last November 3rd in Wisconsin and were told 'you already voted' ... when they had not. More to come on this particular issue," the opinion piece states.

Prosecutors have not identified widespread fraud in Wisconsin, such as people voting in the names of others.

"We're looking into what happened and we'll release everything to the public — good or bad, whether it hurts us, harms us or not," Bernegger told the Journal Sentinel. "We're finding a lot of interesting things, I can tell you that. In the end I think it will help clerks run better elections."

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin man is scanning ballots in his own review of 2020 election