Battle Over Election Materials Subpoenas in Wisconsin

  • by:
  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

After having promised a "Comprehensive Forensic Examination" of Wisconsin, State Representative Janel Brandtjen issued election materials subpoenas to Brown County, which includes Green Bay with a population over 250,000, and Milwaukee County, which contains the city of the same name and 950,000 residents. Both counties were rated by Seth Keshel as having high potential for excess votes in his analysis of voter registration and turnout numbers.

The subpoenas were issued "in furtherance of the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee’s top-to-bottom investigation of the 2020 Presidential General Election, as directed by the enrolled 2021 Assembly Resolution 15," according to her press release:

"Legislators have been hearing from thousands of disgruntled constituents regarding their concerns with the November 2020 election. From outside money pouring into Democrat controlled communities, to individuals engaging in questionable activities; from improper guidance given to clerks from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, to clerks illegally prompting voters to declare themselves 'indefinitely confined.' The list goes on and on.

As the Chair of the Assembly Committee of Campaigns and Elections, I am issuing these subpoenas as the first step towards a full, cyber-forensic audit of tabulators and inspection of the physical ballots from the November 2020 fall election.”

The subpoenas request similar materials as those requested from three counties in Pennsylvania for a forensic investigation in July, including all physical ballots cast, samples of paper used, software, hardware, contracts, and a complete end-to-end election setup to simulate and recreate election day 2020. Also similar to happenings in Pennsylvania, Brandtjen was challenged on her authority to issue the subpoenas. She released a statement in response:

"I am not surprised that partisans would rather discuss the authority of the Campaigns and Elections committee to conduct a thorough investigation of the 2020 election than talk about how to rebuild public trust in our elections. Pursuant to Wis. Stat. §885.01(4) and 2021 Assembly Resolution 15, both the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections as a body, and myself as Chairperson, hold clear authority to issue the subpoenas... for the purpose of compelling the presence of individuals and records... This authority is not contradicted by any other area of state statute."

An opinion memo from 3rd party Wisconsin Legislative Council upon request from Democrat Representative Mark Spreitzer claimed language in Wis. Stat. §13.31 requires that the subpoenas include signatures from the Assembly speaker and the chief clerk of the Assembly that they do not have. Brandtjen's counter-argument:

"I am aware that Wis. Stat. §13.31 provides an alternative pathway under which subpoenas may, but not exclusively must, be issued. The process outlined in that area of statute is limited to the presiding officer and chief clerk of the respective chamber and does not statutorily involve the chair of a standing committee in any manner in the issuance of the subpoena. Should the Assembly Speaker additionally choose to require any particular individuals or documentation to appear before the Assembly Campaigns and Elections committee, I will be more than happy to accommodate him and any such witnesses. I look forward to the commencement of the next step of the committee’s transparent, top-to bottom investigation next month."

Democrat Governor Evers made statement that, "Hell no," the county clerks should not comply with the subpoenas, to which Brandtjen wrote, "One would think that if Governor Evers is so confident there were no issues, he would be more than willing to show it. What are they hiding?"

Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson predicts that "Any further review of the 2020 elections will come to the same conclusion as the recount and will accomplish nothing but waste taxpayer dollars," while Brown County is still reviewing the subpoena. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) is quoted as saying the "Arizona-style Cyber Ninja circus" shows Speaker Vos "has lost control of his caucus," and calls the subpoenas "absurd and unenforcable."

Brandtjen's subpoena statement also referenced an already ongoing limited audit and an investigation that is being led by former Justice Michael J. Gableman as Special Counsel, who State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had previously appointed to look into credible tips of election irregularities by a pair of retired law enforcement officers.

"I understand the Legislative Audit Bureau [LAB] is conducting an audit, however, many constituents have raised objections to it due to the length of time it has taken and the lack of specifics, as it is open-ended. I also appreciate that the Committee on Assembly Organization has authorized the Speaker to hire legal counsel and employ investigators to assist the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections in investigating the administration of elections in Wisconsin and that additional resources are being provided for that purpose. I sincerely welcome and applaud these efforts, however, the people of Wisconsin demand and deserve a transparent, full, cyber-forensic audit as described in the subpoenas submitted to both Milwaukee and Brown Counties. The clock is ticking as the 2022 elections will commence in just a matter of months."

Vos released a new statement about this recent expansion of Gableman's investigation:

"Many questions have been raised about the November election that expose weaknesses and faults in our current election system. It has become clear that a top-to-bottom investigation will take longer than initially anticipated and will require more manpower to complete. To restore full integrity and trust in elections, we have decided to change direction, giving more authority and independence to Justice Gableman. I am declaring him Special Counsel and am giving him the authority to hire more full-time investigators who will work at his direction. After talking with our original investigative team, we realize that the part-time nature of these contracts is less time than is needed to complete the investigation. Justice Gableman will have the resources and ability to determine the need for any future adjustments. Through this investigation, we aim to ensure there is confidence that every vote will be counted, and laws concerning future elections will be faithfully and uniformly followed. We hope to complete a thorough investigation in the fall and review the findings at the same time we receive findings from the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, who are currently conducting a statewide, multi-faceted forensic audit."

State Representative Timothy Ramthun had been active in election integrity efforts in Wisconsin, having previously requested forensic additions to the scope of the ongoing LAB audit. His statement in "complete support" of Brandtjen's subpoenas called it a "huge step in the right direction towards a full cyber-forensic audit" and said he is "thrilled to see this process moving forward."

"Based on the massive amount of contacts my office has received from all across Wisconsin," Ramthun wrote, "it is clear the people we represent demand and deserve this. Our state is finally beginning down the path toward the truth and transparency."

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