Wisconsin Election Integrity: Audits, Subpoenas, Investigations, and Legislation

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

Wisconsin awaits the resolution of multiple ongoing election integrity efforts. An election processes audit by its Legislative Audit Bureau that Republicans had ordered in February, an investigation initiated by Republican Speaker of the State Assembly Robin Vos, and a battle over attempts to subpoena election materials for a full forensic audit are ongoing. The state government has enacted legislation for election reform, and the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) has removed ~200,000 inactive voters from the rolls.

Republican Representative Timothy Ramthun describes the differences between the three audit efforts on episode 28 of his Ramthun Report. He warns that "there are major efforts to cloud the truth" of the various audits, described in his video as "a genuine effort to mislead and confuse everyone." He calls State Representative Janel Brandtjen's subpoena effort "the one true AZ style transparent full cyber and forensic audit that people are demanding."

Rep. Brandtjen, who is chair of the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee, provided a press release update on the subpoenas she issued to Brown and Milwaukee counties that come due on September 7 in which she stated,

"With the overwhelming amount of questionable election activity in Green Bay and Milwaukee, it is clear that a thorough investigation of the physical ballots, equipment, and other election materials is warranted. Both Brown and Milwaukee counties need to be aware that they are bound by statute to preserve all election materials for twenty-two months."

That came the same day that AP reported both counties as having rejected the subpoenas in letters to Brandtjen. The counties hold that Wisconsin Statute §13.31 requires that Speaker Vos sign them to be valid. Brandtjen does not deny this, and in fact, pre-empted that argument on August 9. The authority to subpoena that she is claiming instead rests on Wisconsin Statute §885.01(4) and 2021 Assembly Resolution 15.

Speaker Vos has said that he will not sign Brandtjen's subpoenas, nonetheless. However, he traveled with President Trump by private plane to attend his Alabama rally in August after Trump had said in June that Vos was "working hard to cover up election corruption." Vos followed up on that visit to release a statement about expanding the investigation by former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman:

"Assembly Republicans have been working with Justice Gableman to conduct a swift, complete and thorough investigation. Part of our discussion has been focused on hiring independent contractors to enhance our efforts. We believe a cyber-forensic audit is necessary to ensure issues did not happen in 2020. We have allocated additional resources to Justice Gableman to ensure this investigation gets to the truth."

Joe Biden won Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes, approximately the margin of Donald Trump's 2016 victory. Governor Tony Evers certified that result soon after it was received, which awarded 10 Electoral College votes. Mike Lindell's Cyber Symposium numbers claimed that Trump would have won Wisconsin by ~250,000 votes if it had been counted correctly.

Wisconsin Senate Bills 203-214 were introduced as election reforms in March. Five of the bills have been vetoed by Democrat Governor Tony Evers, one has been signed into law, and the rest are still in consideration by the legislature. Wisconsin law allows for override of the vetoes with a two-thirds vote in both houses. Speaker Vos commented that he interprets the vetoes as showing Evers "is satisfied with the status quo and refusing to improve future elections."

The following bills are the ones that have been passed by the Wisconsin legislature but vetoed by Governor Evers:

- SB 203 would have restricted ballot harvesting for non-election clerks to 2 ballots.

- SB 204 would have required voter ID and tightened rules for obtaining an absentee ballot as well as require they be sent only to voters who request them.

- SB 205 is related to absentee voting by the indefinitely confined from residential care facilities and retirement homes.

- SB 210 would have required that the municipal clerk, chief inspector, and board of canvassers provide election observers "uniform and nondiscriminatory access to all stages of the election process, including recounts."

- SB 212 would have explicitly prohibited election officials from intentionally assisting knowingly invalid votes to be counted or to assist knowingly valid votes to go uncounted while making a crime of failing to report election fraud committed by another election official promptly.

As UncoverDC reported in June, SB 208 is the bill signed into law by the governor. It is related to the publication of Elections Commission meeting minutes.

Rep. Brandtjen provided a list of election reform legislation on June 24 that included SB 203 and SB 210 as well as several Wisconsin Assembly bills, all of which have been tabled in favor of other business:

- AB 179 would "Prohibit[] employees of long-term care facilities from influencing a resident’s decision to vote or which candidate to vote for. It also requires administrators to notify the resident’s family of when Special Voting Deputies will be conducting in-person absentee voting at the facility."

- AB 198 would "Prohibit[] clerks from fixing any errors on absentee ballots. If there is an incomplete certificate envelope, the clerk must mail the ballot back to the voter and post notification of the error on the voter’s MyVote page. It also includes penalties for election fraud committed by election officials."

- AB 201 would "Require[] the Elections Commission to create a standard absentee ballot request form, requires municipalities to post updates on absentee ballots, and requires voters to enclose a copy of their ID when applying for absentee ballots. It also addresses absentee ballots by indefinitely confined voters, automatic receipt of absentee ballots, and unsolicited mailings of absentee ballot applications and ballots."

- AB 271 would require that "Any municipality that broadcasts their canvassing procedures must treat it as a public record by recording it and retaining it for 22 months."

Wisconsin's Elections Commission announced the deactivation of over 200,000 voters last month in "two separate voter list maintenance processes."

The first deactivation group included ~174,000 voters who have not voted in the past four years and did not respond to the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) postcard mailings approved in April and sent out in June. ~12,000 voters did respond, requesting to remain active.

Meagan Wolfe, an administrator for the WEC, said, "Many of the deactivated voters have moved and can re-register at their new address. Some of the voters had died, and a few others asked to have their registrations canceled."

The second group of ~31,000 voters from a similar mailing from 2019 were also deactivated. The WEC had been sued for not removing these voters at the time, but the Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled that the law applied only to municipal clerks and cities, not the WEC as a state entity. WEC was, therefore, determined to be acting properly in waiting until this July 31 deadline to remove them from the rolls.

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