Poll workers prepare absentee ballots at Franklin's central count facility. Franklin is located in southwest Milwaukee County. Photo by David Wise, Nov. 3, 2020.
Days after making a similar request of the state Elections Commission, former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman on Monday asked county clerks to preserve “any and all records and evidence” related to the November election.
Several clerks told WisPolitics.com they would have no issues preserving the documents because they’re already required to anyway. Still, they raised security concerns about the message, which was delivered electronically via a Gmail account.
Gableman’s message covered data retained on voting machines and router information, among other things.
After receiving Gableman’s request last week, Elections Commission Chair Ann Jacobs, a Dem appointee, dinged the former conservative justice. She noted it was county clerks, not the commission, that preserved such records.
Gableman noted in Monday’s letter that the commission discussed his request at last week’s meeting and indicated it was county clerks who “are responsible for any and all conduct, and consequences of such conduct, that occur in relation to the course and development and implementation of any and all procedures and policies concerning the administration of Wisconsin elections.” He added it was clerks who would be “implicated in, and responsible for, any litigation stemming there from.”
Waukesha County Clerk Meg Wartman noted clerks are legally required to retain certain data from a federal election for 22 months
She was more perplexed by how she received the demand. The email was sent from a Gmail account that included “wispecialcounsel4” in the address and listed the user name “john delta.” Wartman said there was nothing else to indicate it was an official correspondence from someone working for the state Assembly.
The document included the seal that Gableman used on the request he sent to the Elections Commission last week.
An email WisPolitics.com sent to the address asking follow-up questions Monday wasn’t immediately returned.
“Whoever sent this letter to us, we don’t destroy records,” said Wartman, who had a meeting planned with corporation counsel to discuss the letter.
Jacobs said the document she received last week was also from a Gmail account. The user name was Michael Gableman and the address was “wispecialcounsel.” Jacobs noted the Elections Commission has been encouraging local clerks to stop using Hotmail or Gmail accounts and move to a state email address for security purposes.
Meanwhile, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, who received the request as well, said he was concerned that Gableman is seeking sensitive information without working from a secure server that could be provided by the state Legislature or the Department of Administration. Some of what could be covered in the request is proprietary information that vendors have told the county to keep secure, McDonell said.
“He is not in our chain of custody,” he said of Gableman.
Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said the notice initially went to his office’s junk mail.
“It’s another stunt,” Christenson said of the notice, adding that Milwaukee County is already preserving election materials.
Christenson said there’s no need to respond to the notice and his office has passed it on to counsel.
Monday’s request asks county clerks to forward the email to municipal clerks. Gableman wrote the request is “equally applicable to them,” adding municipal clerks will soon receive a direct message from him once the Elections Commission provides him their email addresses.
Read the message:
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