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Gableman vows to ‘compel’ clerks to cooperate with election investigation

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The former state supreme court justice appointed by Assembly Republicans to investigate the 2020 November election said in a video Monday he would compel clerks to provide documents or testimony should he seek them.

In a nearly six-minute video, Mike Gableman said "some evidence has been produced" that showed some clerks had violated state law but offered no specifics on which clerks or which violations he was referencing.

Gableman was selected to take over the investigation this summer by Speaker Robin Vos. Assembly Republicans then approved a plan to give Gableman's firm $676,000 in taxpayer money; about half that amount has been earmarked for the hiring of a "data analysis contractor."

While Vos did not sign off on Assembly elections committee chair Rep. Janel Brandtjen's use of subpoenas to get Brown and Milwaukee counties' clerks to turn over voting machines and ballots, Vos has indicated he will support Gableman's subpoena efforts.

Gableman said in the video Monday he hoped the nearly 2,000 county and municipal clerks in Wisconsin would comply with any of his requests but indicated he'd seek Vos's signature for subpoenas if any clerks resist.

"It is my sincere hope that Wisconsin election officials will live up to that duty," Gableman said. "But if they do not, we will use the power afforded to the Office of Special Counsel to compel answers to these questions."

Gableman called on the public to come forward with tips, either of wrongdoing by election officials or with evidence there was a well-run election in their community. He did not say how or where people could submit such information.

UW-Madison election law professor Howard Schweber said he was troubled by Gableman's call to action.

"This strikes me as an invitation for conspiracy theorizing," Schweber wrote in an email. "That then becomes a legitimizing fog of possibilities of the form "we heard allegations of x, y, z, q, and r and while we cannot confirm the truth of these allegations neither does our investigation prove they are false" or things like that."

Gableman said he was not seeking to change the results of the 2020 election but wanted to ensure any clerks who might've violated state law would be held accountable. The retired conservative justice said the burden of proof would be on clerks and officials from the Wisconsin Elections Commission to prove they'd followed state election laws at each turn.

"The burden is not on the people to show in advance of an investigation that public officials and their contractors behaved dishonestly," Gableman said.

Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), who previously served as the Chippewa County Clerk, said during an interview on Capital City Sunday she trusted the review already being conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.

"I will point out it is a forensic audit the Legislative Audit Bureau conducts," Bernier said. "They've done it for us for years. I have a great deal of confidence in them."

Bernier also took issue with the letter Gableman sent county clerks last Monday advising them to retain data from the 2020 election on their voting machines. The machines, Bernier and a number of clerks explained, do not store election data; rather, that information is recorded to memory sticks and is already preserved for 22 months under federal law.

Some clerks said they also questioned the security of Gableman's message since he delivered it via a private email account under the name 'John Delta.' A spokesperson for the Department of Administration said Monday it had no record of any state email account being created for Gableman as part of the investigation.

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