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Man who gave testimony to Assembly committee on 2020 election fined by Elections Commission for frivolous claims

Peter Bernegger ordered to pay more than $2,400, according to records

A voting booth says "VOTE" with a U.S. flag
A polling location is open for voters in the spring election Tuesday, April 6, 2021, at Tenney Park in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Earlier this year, Peter Bernegger, a resident of New London, was invited by Republicans to a state Assembly committee to give testimony on voter fraud. Now, he’s been fined more than $2,400 by the Wisconsin Elections Commission for making frivolous complaints.

The Republican-led Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections invited Bernegger to speak in February. He offered testimony on his own investigation of the 2020 election. But he rebuffed requests for evidence to back up his claims of “fake voters” casting ballots.

The results of the 2020 election have faced significant scrutiny in Wisconsin. President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by 20,682 votes. A partial recount and a series of state and federal court decisions affirmed those results, while the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election.

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Last month, the special counsel hired by state Republicans and headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman called for decertifying the election, but that assertion has gathered very little support, even from Republicans.

According to records obtained by Wisconsin Public Radio, Bernegger filed complaints with the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission on Jan. 28 and Feb. 17, 21 and 24. The commission, which consists of three Democrats and three Republicans, unanimously dismissed the complaints at a closed session meeting Feb. 28.

The exact nature of the complaints isn’t clear, but a document sent by email from the Elections Commission to Bernegger on March 10 discusses the results. One complaint included allegations against 2,352 voters, and another contained a further 253 allegations.

The Elections Commission dismissed those complaints for failing to raise reasonable suspicion of election laws being violated.

It split on fining Bernegger for the claims. The Elections Commission voted 5-1 to classify the 2,352 allegations of one complaint as frivolous. It voted 4-2 to classify another 51 allegations as frivolous. Those motions ordered him to pay a dollar for each allegation he made, with the penalties adding up to $2,403.

The Elections Commission dismissed two more complaints made against Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe and others within the agency without considering them.

“The Commission directs staff to inform Mr. Bernegger that the Commission cannot review or decide upon a case naming the Commissioners as respondents,” the letter to Bernegger reads.

Bernegger was found guilty of mail fraud and bank fraud in Mississippi in 2009.