MILWAUKEE — There are now several investigations into the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin. All of them have been ordered by republican lawmakers who are hoping to uncover alleged fraud that previous recounts and lawsuits couldn’t find.
Republican leaders say they still have several concerns about the election, from indefinitely confined voters to clerks filling in missing information on ballot envelopes. But since they couldn’t get behind the same issues and methods to search for fraud, three separate probes are taking place at the same time.
To understand different perspectives on the GOP election investigations, we’re going ‘360’ to hear from voters, lawmakers and a non-partisan political expert. Let’s start with Menomonee Falls republican Janel Brandtjen who’s spearheading one of the probes.
“One of the things that irritates me the most is when everyone who's like, ‘it was the most fair election ever,’” Representative Brandtjen said. "Is it a fair election if your clerks in Milwaukee and Madison say, 'hey, you don't have to show your ID anymore’? Special voting deputies were no longer allowed in senior facilities."
The republican chairwoman of the Assembly Elections Committee traveled to Arizona back in June to witness the state’s hand recount and cyber forensic audit of the ballots.
Since then, Brandtjen has been pushing to emulate Arizona’s process in Wisconsin by issuing subpoenas to Brown and Milwaukee County clerks for ballots, counting machines and more. So far, she’s been rejected by clerks and legislative attorneys who say her committee doesn’t have the authority.
"The materials are to be made available,” she said. “The physical ballots and the machines themselves are really incredibly important to make sure that we rebuild trust in Wisconsin."
The 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin was unlike any other the state has seen. Amid the pandemic, more Wisconsinites voted absentee by mail than in-person on Election Day. Joe Biden won the state by a slim margin of about 20,000 votes, but a Marquette Law School Poll found last month that 38 percent of participants still say they are ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ confident in the accuracy of the results. The same goes for Slinger republican Mike Johnson.
"I just can't believe that I went to bed at night and Trump was winning, basically the beginning of a landslide,” he said. “I woke up in the morning and he lost miserably. That doesn't make sense to me."
Johnson says he fully supports the investigations, including the one led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who’s hired a former state Supreme Court justice to focus on a few issues in particular:
- A $10 million donation from a group funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to help hundreds of Wisconsin municipalities run their elections.
- A surge of indefinitely confined voters, who by law are allowed to vote absentee without submitting a photo ID. 215,000 Wisconsinites claimed they were confined to their homes last fall, up from 57,000 in 2016.
- Voting in nursing homes - Special voting deputies who typically collect ballots from residents weren’t allowed inside on Election Day due to coronavirus concerns.
Johnson things the probe is worth the $680,000 taxpayer dollars.
“I think it's well worth it because if this was a fraud and we don't investigate it, it's going to be a fraud again,” he said,
The results of the election were confirmed by a recount in Milwaukee and Dane counties along with random audits of municipal ballots counts and tabulating machines before and after the election.
Out of more than 3.2 million ballots cast, clerks referred a few dozen cases of alleged fraud to district attorneys and just two people have been criminally charged to date.
"At the end of the day, it's a ridiculous effort to subject our democracy to a new low,” Governor Tony Evers said at a news conference on August 10.
Governor Evers says municipal clerks should reject any subpoenas that come from these probes.
"You've seen what's going on in Arizona, it's a clown show and there will be no transparency,” Governor Evers said.
Milwaukee resident Della Wells voted for Biden last November. She thinks the election investigations are a waste of money and time.
"Personally, I think they need to move on. I mean, this country's facing much more important issues,” Wells said. "It's tiresome. I really worried about the future of this country and my concern is really the future of young people."
UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden is the director of a non-partisan elections research center. He’s been following the election investigations closely.
"It's really unclear what's happening in each investigation because these things are mostly not being done in a public way,” Burden said.
Burden believes it’s unlikely that the probes will uncover anything problematic or new due to a lack of evidence to support claims of fraud.
"The motivation for what they're doing is sort of hard to figure out,” he said. “It may be that they're looking for reasons or justification to make some changes to state law. It might also be a way just to keep this issue on the front burner going into the next election cycle just to keep their voters energized."
Speaker Vos’ investigation is set to be complete sometime this fall. Rep. Brandtjen says the other two may expend to the spring.