GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson at a Waukesha rally urged his backers to vote early so the campaign could turn its focus to turning out other those who haven’t cast ballots yet and free up supporters to serve as poll watchers.

“Get your vote in and then not only do we not have to keep bugging you, you know, we won’t be on your back, but that will also allow you to maybe even volunteer as an observer — we can still fill more shifts,” the Oshkosh Republican said Tuesday.

The event came as early voting kicked off Tuesday and runs through Nov. 6.

Johnson said the campaign had more than 5,000 election observers, and he would like to have poll watchers in “Democrat-controlled” areas such as Dane County. His campaign has also launched a website for voters to report suspected voter fraud. He said his campaign’s efforts seek to protect the integrity of elections — not to create a partisan advantage.

“I don’t care if you’re Democrat, independent or Republican. You need to have the confidence that your legitimate vote is not going to be canceled by a fraudulent vote,” said Johnson, in a tight race with Dem Mandela Barnes for a third six-year term.

Barnes campaign spokesperson Maddy McDaniel slammed Johnson in a statement to

“Ron Johnson is the last person Wisconsin voters should trust to ‘restore confidence’ in our elections,” McDaniel said. “It’s shameful Johnson is casting doubt and refusing to say whether he will accept the results of the election, but voting is safe and secure and people should be empowered to cast their vote and know it will be counted.”

Johnson also told reporters after his remarks he believes the state does need someone to oversee elections, but that laws should be rewritten so that guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission isn’t needed, or very little guidance is needed.

He also said the commission should have equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats on its staff, calling the current staff “relatively left-leaning.”

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