Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, today directed an Assembly committee to use its subpoena powers to investigate how Tuesday’s election was administered, raising concerns about “mail-in ballot dumps and voter fraud.”

Vos’ statement included no specifics on either allegation, and a spokeswoman said more information about the Campaigns and Elections Committee’s actions would be released after leadership elections next week.

The move comes as President Trump and his campaign have lobbed a series of allegations about fraud and improprieties, often without evidence, in the count of ballots in various states. In recent days, the president’s supporters have falsely claimed the number of votes cast in Wisconsin exceeded the number of registered voters. Once Milwaukee completed its count of absentee ballots, it swung the statewide vote total in Joe Biden’s favor, prompting false allegations of a “vote dump” in Wisconsin.

Vos said he hopes the committee will investigate the “inefficiency of Milwaukee’s central counting of absentee ballots, as well as the removal of voters from the rolls who no longer live here.”

“There should be no question as to whether the vote was fair and legitimate, and there must be absolute certainty that the impending recount finds any and all irregularities,” Vos said.

The latest update from the state Elections Commission shows at least 1.95 million absentee ballots were cast in Tuesday’s election, including more than 651,000 through early, in-person voting.

That includes more than 169,000 in the city of Milwaukee, which finished its count early Wednesday morning, a couple of hours before Green Bay completed its count of the 31,915 absentee ballots it received.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, questioned why Vos singled out Milwaukee’s central count, pointing out it is the state’s most racially diverse city. Hintz also said Republicans for years have “blown the dog whistle” in claiming voter fraud especially among minority populations.

“This seems to be more codifying the fact that this is the party of Donald Trump and the speaker is going to do his bidding,” Hintz said.

Trump’s campaign has said it plans to seek a recount in Wisconsin. But recent recounts in statewide elections have failed to produce a significant change in the original result. Four years ago, a recount initiated by Green Party candidate Jill Stein added 131 votes to Trump’s winning margin over Hillary Clinton. Trump trails by 20,540 votes in the current tally.

Campaigns and Elections Chair Ron Tusler, an attorney, said he hopes the committee will meet in the window between when canvassing of Wisconsin’s presidential results finishes up and the deadline to request a recount. He also hopes to begin issuing subpoenas in the next couple of weeks.

Under state law, the deadline to file a recount request is 5 p.m. on the first business day after the Elections Commission receives the final statement from the county boards of canvass.

Tusler declined to comment on allegations of improprieties or why Vos asked him specifically to review Milwaukee’s central count.

“This is about transparency,” said Tusler, R-Harrison. “We have a lot of folks that thought the election was going to go one way and it went a different way. We just want people to understand whether their candidate won or lost, it was a valid and fair election.”

On Wednesday, Wisconsin’s top election official told reporters the election was run cleanly and out in the open.

“Elections are such a deliberate, meticulous process where each of our local election officials in our local communities are conducting this process in a public setting,” Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe said. “Every piece of data is publicly available, and so there’s no opportunity to add additional votes to the tally.”

She went on to say it was “insulting” to local officials to say the election “was anything but an incredible success.”

Trump won the presidency four years ago by taking Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the so-called “blue wall” states that Dems had consistently won in presidential elections going back to 1992. As of Friday afternoon, various media outlets had declared Biden the winner in Wisconsin and Michigan, while the former vice president had nudged ahead of Trump in the ongoing count in Pennsylvania.

As Vos called for the Campaigns and Elections Committee to review the election, GOP leaders in Michigan and Pennsylvania took similar steps.

In Michigan, where Biden had a 146,000-vote advantage over Trump, GOP legislative leaders announced the oversight committees for both houses of the legislature there would meet Saturday to discuss elections in the state.

In Pennsylvania, top legislative Republicans called on Dem Gov. Tom Wolfe to launch an immediate audit of the election to bolster confidence in the results.

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