Wisconsin's Office of Special Counsel has delivered an interim report to the State Assembly that details its election integrity investigation. The report reads as a serious and reasonably impartial explanation of the Special Counsel investigation, including scope, justification, and legal authority—while recapping previously revealed irregularities in Wisconsin and addressing criticisms that have arisen since it was formed.
The Special Counsel investigation was expanded to full-time and was given additional investigators in July. The legislature had authorized the investigation, and Speaker Robin Voss had appointed former State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman as its lead. In the interim report, Gableman writes:
"I am authorized by law to take all reasonable steps to investigate what happened in regard to the November 2020 election, what should have happened, why there was a difference between the two."
The report begins with a quote from a woman who had raised concerns of elder exploitation through manipulating absentee ballots in Wisconsin:
"I am writing this, as I feel my mother was taken advantage of in her mental state. Parents and loved ones should be protected, not exploited, for an ink mark on a piece of paper and questionable agenda."
Evidence of significant so-called 'Granny Harvesting' in Racine County, Wisconsin, was recently presented by Sheriff Christopher Schmaling and the lead investigator Sergeant Michael Luell. The problem is already the subject of multiple lawsuits in Wisconsin, though Granny Harvesting is presumed to occur nationwide.
The interim report's introduction gives examples of the kind of questions that the Special Counsel's investigation is seeking to answer:
"Why were so many voter registrations at a single address? Why were so many voter registrations given under a single phone number? Why was there a 'blip' at 4:00 a.m. in the reported statewide returns the morning after the election?"
The report does not contain the answers and admits there may be "innocent explanations," but describes the obstacles in obtaining them:
"Many of these answers might have already been obtained were it not for unjustified obstruction of this investigation. Specifically, I requested information from the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) and certain clerks about election procedures and information they possessed. With a large degree of political theater, some of this information has been withheld. I issued subpoenas, as I am lawfully authorized to do as part of my Office's investigation as a function of legislative oversight. Rather than simply provide the information, WEC has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to quash the subpoenas and avoid providing governmental data and information to my office. I am aggressively defending the subpoenas in our state courts—courts which I once helped to oversee in my capacity as a Justice—but WEC's actions beg the question: What are WEC and the recalcitrant city clerks hiding from the public and our legislature?"
The Special Counsel investigation differs from the other efforts in the state, partly in its ability to subpoena documents and witnesses. Wisconsin's Legislative Audit Bureau conducted a review and released their final report in October, showing hundreds of thousands of questionable ballots, votes, and registrations in a state won by ~20,500. The Special Counsel's interim report is critical of the LAB report, in one case pointing out that it "substantially waters down already-public information." Gableman's interim report describes the difference and describes where his office will investigate further:
"In the short time the Office of the Special Counsel has been funded, we have not only met with many individuals and groups, but we have collected, and in some cases compelled by law, the production of relevant information. Further, our investigation has gone beyond, and will continue to go beyond, the investigation recently conducted by the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB). One purpose of this interim report is to lay out for the public how my Office's investigation differs significantly from the LAB investigation.
Notwithstanding lawsuits and threats of more lawsuits supported by high-priced, out-of-state lawyers, my office expects to depose government officials, under oath, to determine whether state and federal law were followed in our elections, whether good management held, and if not, who might have been responsible. If necessary, we stand prepared to refer all relevant information to appropriate state and federal law enforcement authorities."
The introduction of the interim report ends with an appeal for the reader's participation:
"I ask each reader of this interim report to take this as a jumping-off point for learning about the administration of elections in Wisconsin. And again, please reach out to my office if you have any information of relevance. Your voice matters. "
The interim report from the Office of Special Counsel has three main sections. The "Contracts with private groups for election administration and management" section looks at influence by third parties, an issue oft reported in Wisconsin and elsewhere. The report says that the Special Counsel's office has "already uncovered evidence of selective targeting of voters by these private groups."
Another section titled "Who Runs Wisconsin Elections? Finger-Pointing and the Wisconsin Elections Commission" looks at the WEC, which is the group most responsible for how election law was administrated in the state. The report here examines the balance of powers, authorities, and responsibilities for administrating elections that are codified by existing statutes. The report says the investigation has focused on the creation of the Wisconsin Elections Commission that came in the wake of the "Government Accountability Board scandal" in 2008. Just one other "major issue" mentioned is evidence the investigation has found there have been "numerous possible violations of state law" that "call into question the validity of over 17,000 absentee ballots."
The final section of the interim report, "How can the Public be Confident in Our Elections? The Black Box," relates to electronic voting equipment and its use in Wisconsin elections. Machines used in elections are typically 'closed-source' as opposed to 'open-source,' meaning that the internal workings are considered a proprietary trade secret as opposed to something the government and citizens have a right to see—thus the 'black box' moniker. The report says that the SC "has been allocated a budget to engage neutral, certificated data security experts, and has already taken steps to initiate an open and full technical audit of various voting systems."
Gableman's efforts have brought criticism from those who believe the elections were sound or have the incentive to maintain that they do, though he has made an effort to convey impartiality:
"I have no partisan agenda: I am not running for office, and I do not know of any lawful remedy in the state of Wisconsin to change the certification of its electors from our current President Joe Biden to former President Donald Trump."
Representative Timothy Ramthun says there is a legal way. The authority and procedure to reclaim the 10 electoral votes Wisconsin's Governor had certified for Biden are explained in his Ramthun Report Episode 36:
"Today, I have formally called upon the entire legislature to answer the concerns the majority of Wisconsin citizens have regarding election integrity. I have openly and transparently provided every office with my joint resolution asking to reclaim Wisconsin's 10 electoral ballots, along with a legal memo that speaks truth to the process of decertification. I have also offered every office the opportunity to see all the provided evidence used to make the claim upon request, as well as proposed legislative solutions to ensure future elections are not manipulated.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to resolve the issues demanded by the majority of our state. It is this time in history where we can correct the course of our state and our nation, to hold those who would manipulate our sacred right to vote accountable. It falls upon us to take a stand and set an example for the remaining states to follow. Accountability demands that if you do not follow the law and seek to fraudulently affect election results, you will not succeed."
Ramthun's efforts prompted a statement from President Trump on Thursday: