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Critics blast discussion of decertification from Gableman report, hearing

File - In this June 6, 2011 file photo, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Gableman,...
File - In this June 6, 2011 file photo, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Gableman, speaks during session at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal, Pool Photo via AP File)(John Hart | AP)
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 6:49 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2022 at 5:03 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - The special counsel report into the November 2020 election in Wisconsin was released Tuesday, and it claims election grants provided by Center for Tech and Civic Life violate Wisconsin election bribery law.

Special Counsel Michael Gableman released his findings in a 136-page document Tuesday. CLICK HERE to read the full report.

While Gableman says the goal of the report is not to overturn the election, he believes the legislature could decertify it. That claim has been met with pushback from both parties. Gableman himself says decertification would not unseat President Joe Biden.

Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steinke called such discussion a “fools errand.”

“I have ten months remaining in my last term. In my remaining time, I can guarantee that I will not be part of any effort, and will do everything possible to stop any effort, to put politicians in charge of deciding who wins or loses elections,” Steineke says.

The investigation came at the request of Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and was funded by taxpayers. Gableman had a $686,000 budget.

Gableman is speaking at a public hearing in front of the Committee on Campaigns and Elections Tuesday. The hearing is being broadcast on Wisconsin Eye. CLICK HERE to watch the full hearing.

Gableman opens his report by saying the nation’s faith in its election system has been shaken and his goal is to “cure various systemic problems in the state.” Gableman encourages the legislature to act this month before the close of session.

“This shaken faith is not a result of legitimate legislative inquiries into election administration, nor is it a result of lawful contests lodged by any candidate or party. Rather, it is largely a function of opaque, confusing, and often botched election processes that could have been corrected, and still can be corrected, with concerted effort on the part of lawmakers and conscientious civil servants who work for Wisconsin State government,” Gableman writes.

As the report was released, former President Donald Trump released a statement encouraging people to pay attention to the report.

“Everyone who loves America should be closely following today’s vital hearing in the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Election with highly respected former Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman,” Trump said.

During the hearing, Gableman told lawmakers that he supported and voted for Trump.

Gableman listed eight items he refers to as “unlawful conduct and irregularities.”

1. Election officials’ use of absentee ballot drop boxes in violation of Wis. Stat. § 6.87(4)(b)1 and § 6.855;

2. The Center for Tech and Civic Life’s $8,800,000 Zuckerberg Plan Grants being run in the Cities of Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, 8 Kenosha and Green Bay constituting Election Bribery Under Wis. Stat. § 12.11;

3. WEC’s failing to maintain a sufficiently accurate WisVote voter database, as determined by the Legislative Audit Bureau;

4. The Cities of Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay engaging private companies in election administration in unprecedented ways, including tolerating unauthorized users and unauthorized uses of WisVote private voter data under Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) policies, such as sharing voter data for free that would have cost the public $12,500;

5. As the Racine County Sheriff’s Office has concluded, WEC unlawfully directed the municipal clerks not to send out the legally required special voting deputies to nursing homes, resulting in many nursing homes’ registered residents voting at 100% rates and many ineligible residents voting, despite a guardianship order or incapacity;

6. Unlawful voting by wards-under-guardianship left unchecked by Wisconsin election officials, where WEC failed to record that information in the State’s WisVote voter database, despite its availability through the circuit courts—all in violation of the federal Help America Vote Act.

7. WEC’s failure to record non-citizens in the WisVote voter database, thereby permitting non-citizens to vote, even though Wisconsin law requires citizenship to vote—all in violation of the Help America Vote Act. Unlawful voting by non-citizens left unchecked by Wisconsin election officials, with WEC failing to record that information in the State’s WisVote voter database; and

8. Wisconsin election officials’ and WEC’s violation of Federal and Wisconsin Equal Protection Clauses by failing to treat all voters the same in the same election.

Gableman writes, “This Report is not intended to reanalyze the re-count that occurred in late 2020. And the purpose of this Report is not to challenge certification of the Presidential election, though in Appendix II we do sketch how that might be done. Any decisions in that vein must be made by the elected representatives of the people, that is, the Wisconsin Legislature. Yet it is clear that Wisconsin election officials’ unlawful conduct in the 2020 Presidential election casts grave doubt on Wisconsin’s 2020 Presidential election certification.”

ZUCKERBERG GRANTS

Gableman’s report claims grants Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay violated Election Bribery laws.

Gableman calls the cities the “Zuckerberg 5.” They were given out by the Center for Tech and Civic Life funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“The CTCL agreement facially violates the election bribery prohibition of Wis. Stat. § 12.11 because the participating cities and public officials received private money to facilitate in-person or absentee voting within such a city. Any similar agreements in the 2022 and 2024 election cycle would also be prohibited election bribery,” Gableman writes.

“The record created by public document requests shows that CTCL, a private company headquartered in Chicago, engaged in an election bribery scheme. CTCL reached out to the City of Racine to allow CTCL to provide grant money to certain handpicked cities in Wisconsin to facilitate increased in-person and absentee voting in the cities.. This first grant of $100,000 was to be split among the five largest cities in Wisconsin at $10,000 per city, plus an extra $50,000 to Racine for organizing the five cities. This first grant required the mayors of the five largest cities in Wisconsin and their respective staffs to complete CTCL election administration forms, including goals and plans to facilitate increased in-person and absentee voting in their respective cities and “communities of color” and develop a joint plan for elections only in these cities and not statewide,” reads the report.

Gableman has subpoenaed the mayors of these five cities, but they have refused to take part in closed-door discussions with the special counsel.

ABSENTEE DROP BOXES

Gableman’s report accuses Wisconsin Election officials of “unprecedented use of absentee ballot drop boxes” that violated state law. Gableman says this was “particularly pervasive” in the so-called “Zuckerberg 5″ cities.

“The use of absentee ballot drop boxes has been successfully challenged in state court as being unlawful,” Gableman writes.

DECERTIFICATION

In an appendix to the report, Gableman lays out a guide on decertification, saying Wisconsin election law does not authorize the decertification of electors but does not prohibit it.

Gableman said the Wisconsin Legislature could decertify the certified electors in the 2020 election in two steps. It would require the legislature to have a majority in both houses to pass a resolution concluding the election was held in violation of state law or it rose to the level that fraud could have affected the outcome. Gableman says the legislature would need to “invoke and then exercise its plenary power to designate the slate of electors it thought best accorded with the outcome of the election.”

“However, this action would not, on its own, have any other legal consequence under state or federal law. It would not, for example, change who the current President is,” Gableman writes.

REACTION

Democrats and some Republicans have called the investigation a “sham.”

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called it a “circus” and an “embarrassment for our state.”

“This effort has drawn bipartisan opposition, and nothing about it has changed or will change what the courts, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, and multiple other reviews have already proven: Wisconsin held a free, fair, and secure election in November 2020. Wisconsinites’ votes were counted in every municipality by trusted local officials, in the presence of representatives from both parties, and machines across the state were subject to an official audit. This effort has spread disinformation about our election processes, it has attacked the integrity of our clerks, election administrators, and poll workers, and it has emboldened individuals to harass and demean dedicated public servants,” says Evers.

State Rep. Mark Spreitzer says Gableman was hired “to appease Donald Trump.”

Republican Assembly Majority Leader Rep. Jim Steineke says it would be a “fools errand” to attempt to decertify the election in Wisconsin.

Steineke doubled down, saying he will have no part in a legislative effort to decide who wins an election. He said it could result in the “end of our republic as we know it.”

Ann Jacobs, chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said Gableman had gone “full in crazy conspiracy theory” with discussion of decertification.

“In other words, if the legislature doesn’t like the outcome of an election, it could refuse to send electors to Washington,” Jacobs says.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell said Gableman is twisting the narrative.

BACKGROUND

Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, was tasked by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to look into the election.

On Tuesday, Gableman assured the committee that his investigation was not over.

“First of all, I know the report - as the chairman just said - the report came in just a few minutes ago. And I regret that. But I do want to remind everyone on this committee, that this meeting today is part of an ongoing discussion that will not end today. This will not end it,” Gableman said.

Gableman has threatened jail time for some mayors who refuse subpoenas to testify about the election behind closed doors. Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich is among the targets of Gableman’s subpoenas.

The mayors have said they would prefer to testify in public rather than private.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason appeared on UPFRONT on WISN Sunday. He said he would go to jail if that’s what it takes to “defend democracy.”

“I certainly don’t want to go to jail, but if it’s something I would have to do to defend democracy and stand up for the clerks and all the poll workers that did all that hard work, it’s certainly something I would do,” Mason said.

The investigation is looking into claims of wrongdoing by election officials in the state won by President Joe Biden. Gableman’s investigation has received bipartisan criticism as a political stunt designed to appease former President Donald Trump and those who believe that the election was stolen from him.

In January, Genrich’s attorneys asked a court to sanction Gableman, claiming the former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice made inaccurate statements about the mayor. An order for sanctions obtained by Action 2 News was filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court. It requests the court issue an order that Gableman publish full-page advertisements in several newspapers expressing that he falsely said Genrich violated the law.

Copyright 2022 WBAY. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.