The top Republican in Wisconsin’s state Assembly is hiring retired police officers to investigate November’s election, joining a growing list of presidential battlegrounds where GOP state officials are looking for evidence to support former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud.
State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he is hiring three former police officers and an attorney to work as contractors for the state legislature. The group will have subpoena power and its investigation will be taxpayer-funded. It is expected to produce a report with its findings by the fall, Vos told the newspaper.
He said the group will investigate tips about voter fraud or election problems. Among the topics he said the group could examine: $6.3 million in private grant funding to help Wisconsin cities run last year’s election, claims of double-voting and the ways clerks fixed absentee ballot credentials.
“A sizable chunk of people believe the election was illegitimate. And democracy cannot flourish if both sides don’t believe in the end both sides had a fair shot,” Vos said.
A spokesman for Vos did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Ann Jacobs, the chair of Wisconsin’s Elections Commission, said the move by Vos “could undermine confidence in an election that was conducted properly.”
“I think it’s unfortunate that the Legislature is using its resources to investigate what has already been thoroughly investigated,” Jacobs said in an emailed statement. “I hope that instead they could work toward expanding opportunities and ease of voting for Wisconsin voters.”
Vos’ move comes days after The Associated Press, citing documents obtained under a public records request, reported that Wisconsin election officials had identified and forwarded to prosecutors just 27 cases of potential voter fraud in a state where 3.3 million ballots were cast in November’s election.
Vos acknowledged to the Journal-Sentinel that “the election’s already over” and President Joe Biden’s win cannot be overturned.
But he said he hopes to avoid the kind of criticism that other states investigating or auditing their 2020 elections have faced – including Arizona, where state Senate Republicans hired a company called Cyber Ninjas, with no experience auditing elections, to conduct its audit.
“My hope is that they come back and they build the case to show Gov. (Tony) Evers and the Democrats who are in the ‘Casablanca’ mode – ‘nothing to see here,’ ‘everything’s fine,’ ‘they just want to suppress the vote.’ No. These are professional investigators,” Vos told the Journal Sentinel.
Wisconsin joins a list of states that includes Arizona and Georgia where pro-Trump Republicans are investigating their 2020 election results – even after recounts, audits and other probes found no evidence of widespread fraud or errors.
In Arizona, the Cyber Ninjas audit has led to an increasingly bitter brawl between state Senate Republicans who launched the probe and Republican officials in Maricopa County, who insist that there is no evidence of wrongdoing and that the auditors are not following proper procedures.
In Georgia, a judge approved a group of voters’ request to inspect 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in Fulton County.
Meanwhile, Republican-led state legislatures in Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Texas and other states have advanced or enacted new measures that will make voting more difficult.
Vos’ move to probe the 2020 election more than six months after it took place is the latest chapter in a partisan clash over how Wisconsin conducts elections.
Last year, in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, Vos and other state legislative GOP leaders – with the Republican-controlled state Supreme Court’s backing – blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers from postponing the April 7 primary or conducting it entirely by mail.
On primary day, Vos wore a mask, gloves and other protective gear as he sought to assure voters it was “incredibly safe” to vote in person.
After Biden won, Trump and his allies lost a series of court battles in Wisconsin. They had said ballots should be thrown out because clerks filled in the addresses of witnesses on absentee ballot envelopes, because the city of Madison held “democracy in the park” events allowing voters to hand their mail-in ballots to poll workers in person, and because they said too many voters claimed to be indefinitely confined by age or disability, allowing them to request absentee ballots without providing a photo ID. Those complaints were all rejected by courts.