Wisconsin Senate launches its own 2020 election investigation

November 3 Wisconsin election ballot
November 3 Wisconsin election ballot
Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 2:36 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2021 at 5:57 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Fresh on the heels of the Legislative Audit Bureau’s review of the 2020 November election, the Wisconsin Senate is launching its own investigation, citing the findings of the non-partisan agency. This investigation comes as the Assembly’s own investigation, led by special council and former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, continues.

Republican Senate leaders especially targeted the City of Madison when announcing their investigation, saying the city’s election officials refused to provide documents and ballots that the LAB requested. No other municipal or county governments were mentioned.

“I was disappointed to see that an elected official tasked with the administration of fair and transparent elections would refuse their duty to provide requested information necessary to prove they did their job adequately,” Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) said. “That is unacceptable.”

The three top GOP Senators declared the LAB’s audit “painted a grim picture” of the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s management of the fall election and claimed state elections officials’ actions, “undermined the free, fair, and transparent elections Wisconsinites deserve.”

Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay)
Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay)

The agency’s highly anticipated audit did not identify any widespread fraud in Wisconsin, leading a key Republican Senator, state Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), to call the state’s elections are “safe and secure.” Cowles co-chairs the Legislature’s Audit Committee which authorized the LAB’s audit.

He did note the agency’s report leads to bi-partisan fixes for some of the issues identified in the audit, made 30 recommendations for the Wisconsin Elections Commission to consider and 18 possible legal changes for the Legislature. The report also identified inconsistent administration of election law based on surveys of ballots it reviewed across the state.

Senate Majority Leader Devin Lemahieu
Senate Majority Leader Devin Lemahieu(Wisconsin Legislature)

Senate Majority Leader Devin Lemahieu, however, argued the report showed the state’s elections commission did not follow the law.

“We will assess the full impact of WEC’s deficiencies and determine the best course of action for the future of election administration given the now documented failures of the current administration and staff,” the Oostburg Republican said.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway spoke out Monday afternoon regarding the investigation.

“State and federal law requires the preservation of election materials for 22 months following the election and requires clerks to preserve a chain of custody that would be broken by allowing 3rd party access. The US Department of Justice put out guidance citing federal criminal penalties for election officials who willfully fail to comply with the retention and preservation requirements before 22 months had passed.

We informed LAB that they could inspect all records in the presence of City staff, but we could not hand over original ballots and documents. LAB staff did not provide any legal authority which would supersede these statutes."​

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway

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