MADISON — The leader of a Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin on Monday sent county clerks an email asking them to retain all records related to the election and notify him if any had been destroyed.
However, Racine County’s clerk said Monday she never received the email. Racine County is one of the swing areas of the state that some conservatives have claimed, without evidence, was where fraud occurred.
The message from former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who is leading the probe, comes after he initially asked the Wisconsin Election Commission for the data. But elections are run locally and all of the ballots, voting machines and other data are maintained by county and municipal officials.
Gableman said in the Monday email that he also intends to contact every municipal clerk once he obtains the emails from the state election commission. In the meantime, he asks the county clerks to forward his request to retain the records — he reportedly has not asked to receive the records as of yet; he’s solely asked clerks to not get rid of the records.
State law already requires clerks to save records related to voting for 22 months after an election. The language of the law specifically includes memory devices but says nothing about voting equipment itself or the software that supports it.
Gableman said his request covers “otherwise routine software updates to election systems that might have in the past or will in the future corrupt or erase and/or otherwise compromise relevant records, or which might obstruct examination and investigation.”
At 3:28 p.m. Monday, Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen, who is a Republican, said in an email to The Journal Times: “At this time, I have not received any email(s) from Michael Gablemen related to holding onto election materials.”
Regarding the request from Gableman, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, a Democrat, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “This is where he (Gableman) doesn’t understand how any of this works ... the machines are dumb machines. This is what these people don’t understand — there’s nothing on that machine. Right now it’s blank. And that’s how it’s supposed to be and that’s how it’s always been. The machines are just dumb terminals.”
Added Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson, a Democrat, to the Journal Sentinel: “To me it’s painfully obvious that he doesn’t understand how our elections work. That really scares me considering he’s considered, I don’t know, an expert by some others in the Republican Party on this matter.”
President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by just over 20,000 votes in Wisconsin. The results withstood recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties and numerous court challenges, but some Republicans are pushing for broader reviews of how the election was run.
Republican lawmakers have said their intention is not to overturn Biden’s win, but to look for ways to make future elections more secure. Democrats, and some Republicans, have said the lawmakers are trying to undermine faith in elections, which evidence has repeatedly shown were fair and accurate.
Republican lawmakers ordered a review, which is ongoing, by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, under pressure from Trump and those who believe the election was stolen, ordered a separate investigation led by Gableman.
On Friday, about 100 people who don’t trust the audit bureau or Gableman to do fair investigations, called on Vos and other legislative Republican leaders to get behind a “full forensic physical and cyber audit.”
Calls for election reviews come as prosecutors in Wisconsin have brought election fraud charges against just two people out of about 3.3 million who voted.
Adam Rogan of The Journal Times contributed to this report.