Wisconsin Republicans plan 2nd election investigation

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans plan to launch another investigation of 2020 election administration, GOP leaders announced Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, Senate President Chris Kapenga and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dan Feyen said in a news release that GOP leaders will authorize the Senate elections committee to conduct the probe in the wake of findings legislative auditors released Friday.

Auditors didn’t find any widespread fraud in the state but did identify inconsistent administration of election law based on surveys of ballots sampled from across Wisconsin. Auditors made 30 recommendations for the Wisconsin Elections Commission to consider and 18 possible legal changes for the Legislature. The GOP leaders’ news release said they would assess “the full impact of WEC’s deficiencies.”

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“The audit findings . . . paint a grim picture of the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) and their careless administration of election law in Wisconsin,” the Republicans said. “The audit shows numerous failures within WEC which undermined the free, fair, and transparent elections Wisconsinites deserve. ”

The news release did not say when the Senate committee would begin the probe, how extensive it might be or whether the committee will be empowered to subpoena records. Elections Commission spokesman John Smalley said he hadn’t seen the release and had no immediate comment.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos earlier this year hired former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to investigate the election after former President Donald Trump criticized Wisconsin Republicans of covering up election fraud in the state. Gableman earlier this month issued subpoenas seeking records from election officials in the state’s five largest cities as well as the state elections commission.

A recount and court rulings have shown Democrat Joe Biden won Wisconsin, but Trump and his followers have refused to accept defeat.

The subpoenas also called for city officials and commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe to submit to private interviews this past Friday, but backed off that demand after Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction invalidating the subpoenas as too broad. Dane County Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford on Modnay set a hearing on the injunction request for Dec. 23.

“State and federal law requires the preservation of election materials for 22 months following the election and requires clerks to preserve a chain of custody that would be broken by allowing 3rd party access,” said the office of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “The US Department of Justice put out guidance citing federal criminal penalties for election officials who willfully fail to comply with the retention and preservation requirements before 22 months had passed.”

“We informed LAB that they could inspect all records in the presence of City staff, but we could not hand over original ballots and documents. LAB staff did not provide any legal authority which would supersede these statutes.”​