AP FACT CHECK: Wisconsin election probe ignores some facts | Political News
By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press
MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — A former Wisconsin Supreme Court judge who studied the 2020 election on the Wisconsin battlefield presented his preliminary findings this week, recommending lawmakers straighten the state’s presidential result — a move lawyers have said designated as illegal.
But many of Michael Gableman’s claims have already been dismissed by courts or rejected by the state’s bipartisan election commission. Gableman, hired by the top Republican in the assembly, admitted he voted for Donald Trump and called the election stolen before he was ever appointed to investigate.
Here’s a look at some of the claims from his presentation to lawmakers on Tuesday and in the report:
GABLEMAN: “The widespread use of mail-in ballot boxes by Wisconsin election officials violated Wisconsin law.”
THE FACTS: Wisconsin law is silent on mail-in ballots. Ahead of the 2020 election, the Wisconsin Bipartisan Electoral Commission advised local poll workers who conduct elections and told them that ballot boxes can be placed wherever they choose. Wisconsin’s top election official testified last year that at least 528 Dropboxes were used by more than 430 communities in the 2020 presidential election.
Both Republicans and Democrats have historically supported the widespread use of ballot boxes. However, following Trump’s defeat in Wisconsin, his supporters questioned the legitimacy of the Electoral Commission’s guidance.
A judge said in January that ballot boxes located outside of poll workers’ offices were illegal because nothing in state law allows the Electoral Commission to issue such guidance to poll workers. The case is currently pending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The electoral commission overturned its guidance last month, in line with the lower court’s decision.
GABLEMAN, who claimed that the Wisconsin Electoral Commission broke the law by directing community officials not to send voting assistants to nursing homes, which resulted in mentally ill residents casting ballots: “The Wisconsin Electoral Commission unlawfully directed officials to against violating applicable protection rules residents of nursing homes”.
THE FACTS: It’s more complicated than that.
State law requires local poll workers to send so-called special voters to nursing homes to give residents a chance to vote. After trying to make two visits, MPs can send mail-in ballots to residents instead.
But early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Wisconsin Electoral Commission made its decision, the state was governed by a safer-at-home order, and nursing homes severely restricted who could enter their facilities, often not even letting immediate family members in .
The Election Commission, made up of equal parts Republican and Democrat, voted unanimously in March 2020 not to allow poll workers to be sent to nursing homes. The commission voted 5-1 in two follow-up votes to extend the order until the November 2020 election, before lifting it in March 2021. Rather than send voting MPs, the commission instructed employees to send mail-in ballots to nursing home residents who had requested them.
State election commissioners have defended their move, saying they were trying to ensure nursing home residents could vote by sending mail-in ballots in place of polling assistants who might not be allowed to enter.
The bipartisan Legislative Audit Bureau found that the commission had broken the law by not sending the election assistants.
A Racine County sheriff last year argued that the members of the election commission who voted not to send the aides should be charged with felonies, but prosecutors declined to press charges because they lack jurisdiction. Attorney General Josh Kaul – a Democrat – has also declined to press charges.
Gableman’s claim that mentally ill nursing home residents voted is also questionable. Under Wisconsin law, only a judge can declare someone unfit to vote. Nursing home residents retain their voting rights even if they are under the care of a relative.
Gableman played videos of attorney Erick Kardaal interviewing several people he said had voted but had difficulty answering basic questions.
Ann Jacobs, the Democratic Chair of the Electoral Commission, said the videos were misleading because people didn’t have to answer questions to vote.
Gableman claimed to have “audited” 64 nursing homes in three counties and found that 100% of registered voters there voted, but his report contained no documentation to support that claim. The Electoral Commission is reviewing allegations in the report, spokesman Riley Vetterkind said.
GABLEMAN: The Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life’s $8.8 million gift to the cities of Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay in support of conducting elections “violates the statute of Wisconsin banning electoral bribery”.
THE FACTS: Three lawsuits arguing that grant funding was illegal under state law were dismissed, and a law firm hired by the state Election Commission also found no wrongdoing.
U.S. District Judge William Griesbach, appointed by President George W. Bush, refused to block the grant funds in October 2020 as part of a lawsuit Kaardal filed on behalf of the Wisconsin Voters Alliance along with the conservative Thomas Moore Society.
The judge said at the time that there was nothing in state law “that could fairly be construed to prohibit defendant cities from accepting funds from CTCL.”
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, on appeal in the case, ruled that those who brought the lawsuit had failed to identify laws that would prohibit the grants.
Kaardal raised the issue again in a federal lawsuit he filed in Washington, DC, on behalf of the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, two Wisconsin Republican lawmakers and others. This lawsuit was intended to allow legislatures in Wisconsin and other states to allocate their votes for the electoral college.
US District Judge James Boasberg, appointed by President Barack Obama, dismissed the lawsuit and referred Kaardal to a judicial committee for disciplinary action simply for bringing up the case. Kaardal has appealed against this.
In a third case, the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, represented by Kaardal, asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn the election results on multiple grounds, including grants. The court refused to take the case.
GABLEMAN, citing alleged voting irregularities and electoral administration grants awarded to Democratic-majority cities, said: “The Legislature should carefully consider the option of decertifying the 2020 Wisconsin presidential election.”
THE FACTS: Lawyers say it’s illegal, and lawmakers say they won’t do it.
Bipartisan attorneys working for the Legislature both in November 2020 after Trump’s loss and again a year later told lawmakers that decertification was not legal. Republican legislative leaders have repeatedly cited those memos as reasons they will not attempt to reverse the award of the state’s 10 electoral votes to Biden, who won the state by nearly 21,000 votes.
The convention has also repeatedly rejected a resolution by Republican Rep. Timothy Ramthun, a candidate for governor, to invalidate the vote. Even as Gableman made his presentation, Republican Convention Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted that the move was unconstitutional and would not be considered by the legislature. Republican Convention Speaker Robin Vos, who hired Gableman, has also previously dismissed calls for the election to be evened out. And even Gableman said in his own report that the move would not remove Biden from office.
EDITOR’S NOTE – A look at the veracity of politicians’ claims.
For AP fact checks, visit http://apnews.com/APFactCheck
Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck
This story has been corrected to show that the initial vote on nursing homes was unanimous, but subsequent votes were 5-1.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.