Two of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential electors and a voter Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking more than $2.4 million from a dozen people involved in an effort to present documents claiming they were casting Wisconsin’s votes for Donald Trump even though Joe Biden won.
The suit claims the dozen people — including the 10 who were alternate electors for Trump and two attorneys involved in the effort — defrauded the state and created a public nuisance with their actions.
The suit seeks a civil fine of $2,000 per person involved and another $200,000 each in punitive damages to dissuade anyone from trying it again. It also asks a Dane County court to declare the false electors acted unlawfully.
“The individuals named in this case schemed to hijack Wisconsin’s role in selecting the president of the United States and to override the will of the voters. We must hold them accountable for their illegal, unprecedented, and profoundly anti-democratic actions,” said Jeff Mandell, president and lead counsel at Law Forward.
Along with Law Forward, the Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection filed the suit. They said it was the first of its kind in the nation after Republicans in several states sent an alternate slate of electors for Trump even though Biden won those states.
Those targeted include Bob Spindell, a GOP appointee to the state Elections Commission. He was one those who signed documents December 2020 that were submitted to the federal government claiming the alternate electors were casting Wisconsin’s votes for Trump, who lost the state by less than 21,000 votes.
As the Elections Commission handled a complaint over the effort, Spindell defended his actions. He said at a meeting last year it was all part of a strategy to preserve Trump’s legal options as he challenged Wisconsin’s election results. Spindell insisted no fraud was committed.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Spindell said his comments from that meeting “pretty much covered it.”
“I think it’s something that’s not unexpected that this will be filed,” Spindell said of the suit. “It’s interesting that they did it right before the (this weekend’s state) Republican convention, probably worked hard to get the Ts crossed and dots placed.”
The new suit also comes after other unsuccessful actions to seek penalties against those involved in the Wisconsin effort.
Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm declined to pursue a criminal case. He found he didn’t have jurisdiction over the electors, who are from around the state and gathered in the state Capitol to sign documents to falsely cast the state’s votes for Trump.
The Elections Commission in March unanimously rejected a complaint filed by Law Forward. And Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne has yet to publicly announce a decision on a complaint his office received.
The state Department of Justice earlier this month declined to pursue a request that Law Forward sent to the agency to take a look at one aspect of the false electors’ actions.
Meanwhile, two of the false electors — former state GOP Chair Andrew Hitt and Kelly Ruh, a former De Pere alderwoman — were subpoenaed by the U.S. House committee looking into the Jan. 6, 2021, violent protest at the U.S. Capitol.
See the release here.