Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee Chair Janel Brandtjen announced today she has issued subpoenas for ballots and vote-counting machines from Milwaukee and Brown counties as part of her probe into the 2020 presidential election.
Shortly after announcing the subpoenas, the Menomonee Falls Republican spoke to a rally in front of the state Capitol to pressure GOP legislative leaders into approving a forensic audit of the 2020 election. The subpoenas also request images of all election equipment, including tabulators, ballot-marking devices and computers used for processing results.
“And this is not something that we’re going to be doing just in 2020,” Brandtjen added. “We’re going to be doing it every year going forward because Wisconsin deserves fair and transparent elections.”
But it was unclear if the subpoenas she issued today could legally compel Brown and Milwaukee county officials to turn over the requested materials.
Brandtjen cited a state statute that gives the member of a legislative committee the power to issue a subpoena.
According to a Legislative Council memo from June, only the Assembly speaker has the power to issue a subpoena to compel testimony or the production of records and level a penalty for failing to comply. Those subpoenas also must be signed by both the speaker and the Assembly chief clerk.
The signatures of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Assembly Chief Clerk Ted Blazel weren’t on the subpoenas that Brandtjen released today.
Vos, whose office didn’t return a call seeking comment today, was critical last week of Brandtjen’s call for a forensic audit of the election.
Vos has separately hired former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to review the 2020 election, while the Legislative Audit Bureau has its own probe running.
The speaker insisted last week a forensic audit was already happening.
“I feel like my colleague Representative Brandtjen is misinformed about what we’re doing in Wisconsin because we are already doing a forensic audit,” Vos said at the time. “If she wants to add extra resources from her two staff people in the office to be able to assist the investigators that we have and the audit bureau and what they’re doing, we welcome everybody to offer whatever evidence that they have.”
Brandtjen’s office didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on whether the lawmaker planned to ask Vos to sign the subpoenas.
After receiving Brandtjen’s subpoena, Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said his county’s elections are transparent and secure.
“Any further review of the 2020 elections will come to the same conclusion as the recount and will accomplish nothing but waste taxpayer dollars,” Christenson said in a statement.
Brown County Deputy Executive Jeff Flynt said the county is currently reviewing the subpoena it received.
During today’s rally on the Capitol steps, former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. insisted he is not attempting to overturn the presidential election but wants to create “a blueprint and a way forward” ahead of the 2022 midterms. Clarke also said the investigation Vos ordered lacks transparency, adding that Gableman does not have experience with election audits.
Clarke also said Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, are standing in the way of a forensic audit. He told supporters at the rally that “Vos flat out thinks you are stupid,” prompting the crowd to chant “Vos has got to go.”
Rep. Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, said many of his GOP colleagues need time to voice their support for a forensic audit publicly, eliciting boos from the crowd.
“I got to work with these guys. And they’re good people, so hang on,” Ramthun said in response. “But many, many of them are already there. But they haven’t been as outspoken as myself or Representative Brandtjen.”
Dem Rep. Mark Spreitzer, a member of the Campaigns and Elections Committee, said he opposes Brandtjen’s efforts to subpoena ballots and machines as part of the probe. He pointed out Wisconsin election officials regularly run checks of voting machines, and no significant discrepancies were found during that effort following the November election.
The Beloit Dem also noted a similar effort with an often-criticized forensic audit in Maricopa County, Ariz., resulted in local officials declaring they would have to purchase new voting machines due to concerns the tabulators that had been turned over may have been tampered with.
Likewise, he feared the new effort would become a waste of time for local clerks and end up costing taxpayers.
“There’s no reason here to think that there’s anything wrong with the voting machines. If they get pulled into this process, there could be something wrong with them going forward,” Spreitzer said.
Brandtjen’s subpoenas also request signature matching equipment, though Wisconsin does not signature match when processing ballots. Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Ann Jacobs expressed her disappointment on Twitter, saying “you really would hope the chair of the assembly’s election committee would know that.”
Clarke called for the WEC to be disbanded during the rally.
“The WEC has become a partisan political hack and a de facto wing of the Democratic Party,” Clarke said. “They think they’re accountable to no one.”
Read the Legislative Council memo.