MADISON – A month ago, Republican lawmakers said they were prepared to issue subpoenas for the first time in decades to haul election officials before them to get answers about how the presidential contest was conducted.
But they have now abandoned that plan and aren’t even bothering to invite them to attend a Friday hearing looking into an election that Democrat Joe Biden won by about 21,000 votes in the state.
Instead, they’re asking to hear from a conservative radio talk show host, a former state Supreme Court justice, a postal subcontractor who has offered a debunked theory about backdated absentee ballots and an election observer whom President Donald Trump wants to testify in court in one of his lawsuits over the election.
Friday’s hearing before two committees is being overseen by Rep. Ron Tusler of Harrison and Sen. Kathy Bernier of Lake Hallie.
The two have not sought testimony from Meagan Wolfe, the director of the state Elections Commission, or Claire Woodall-Vogg, the director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. Tusler has spent the last month reviewing what he has said are thousands of complaints and concerns about the election, but he’s yet to talk to Woodall-Vogg about them, Woodall-Vogg said.
“No one has contacted me during the course of their ‘investigation’ into claims over the past month,” Woodall-Vogg said by email.
Last month, Tusler and Assembly GOP Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester said they were prepared to subpoena witnesses — something lawmakers have not done since the 1960s or 1970s, according to nonpartisan researchers for the Legislature. But Tusler has since said he would ask people to testify before issuing subpoenas.
Wolfe and Woodall-Vogg have said the election went well and they would gladly discuss it with lawmakers, but no one has asked them to do so.
“If (Republicans) invited our election officials what they would hear is that the election ran smoothly and was a free and fair election. And I don’t think that that’s what they want to hear,” said Rep. Mark Spreitzer, a Beloit Democrat who sits on Tusler’s committee. “It’s pretty clear to me this is intended to be just pure political circus based on this list of invited speakers.”
Spreitzer said Republicans turned down a request from Democrats to hear from Wolfe and most election clerks. He said it appears the only clerk Republicans will try to call is Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell.
Tusler did not say Thursday why he hadn’t called Wolfe or Woodall-Vogg.
Tusler this week said he wouldn’t say who he thought won Wisconsin’s election until after Friday’s hearing, and he might be willing to try to have legislators switch the state’s Electoral College slate. It is not clear how legislators could do that because state law requires Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to sign off on the slate of electors — an act he has already taken.
Among those whom Republicans have told Democrats they plan to call to testify Friday are:
Michael Gableman, a former state Supreme Court justice who observed the counting of absentee ballots in Milwaukee on Election Day;
Dan O’Donnell, a WISN-AM (1130) talk show host who has criticized the state’s election procedures;
Dean Knudson and Bob Spindell, two Republicans on the state Elections Commission. The commission consists of three Republicans and three Democrats, but the GOP lawmakers are not taking testimony from the Democrats or the commission’s nonpartisan staff.
Ethan Pease, a subcontractor with the U.S. Postal Service who temporarily worked in Madison. He has said postal employees were told after the election to backdate absentee ballots. But even if that is true, such ballots would not be counted because ballots must be in the possession of clerks by the time polls close on Election Day.
Erick Kaardal, a Minneapolis attorney who represented the conservative Wisconsin Voters Alliance in an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn Wisconsin’s results.
Ardis Cerny, a longtime critic of the way the state conducts its elections.
David Bolter, Daniel Miller and Bart Williams, three people Trump has been seeking to have testify in his federal lawsuit. Bolter and Miller were election counters in Milwaukee; Williams was an election observer there.
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.