Let us review.
Joe Biden won the November election in Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes. That has been confirmed through the normal, rigorous and demonstrably accurate canvass process and reconfirmed through extraordinary recounts and in court challenges from former Pres. Donald Trump and his pals. It’s fair to say that this has been the most scrupulously reviewed election in Wisconsin history.
No matter. Trump insists, all evidence to the contrary, that he was cheated. To their everlasting discredit, even smart Republicans, like Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, don’t have the courage to simply accept the truth and move on.
So, to placate Trump and his true believers, Vos hired retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to “investigate” the election process at a cost to taxpayers of just under $700,000. Just what exactly he was supposed to investigate remains unclear to everyone — including Gableman. In an interview this week, Gableman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Most people, myself included, do not have a comprehensive understanding, or even any understanding, of how elections work.”
He’s made that abundantly clear. He started his investigation by demanding that the state Elections Commission preserve all voting equipment and data, only to be informed that they don’t hold any. It’s with the counties. And they’re required by law to preserve everything for 22 months after an election anyway.
It gets worse, and more bizarre. He contacted elections officials using what appears to be his personal email, which was suspicious. Clerks, even some in places where Trump won easily, refused to even open the emails, fearing they might be cyber attacks.
Oh, but it gets better. Even though Gableman’s name was in the body of the email and on the attached letter, the email itself came from someone named “john delta”. Turns out that Mr. Delta is actually Andrew Kloster, a former Trump administration official and an attorney who describes himself as an “ecumenical rightist” on Twitter. Gableman — the man in charge of throwing the harsh light of public scrutiny on elections — refused for weeks to answer any questions about how Kloster is involved. So much for transparency in Gableman’s own process, such that it is. (Today Gableman confirmed that Kloster is working with him and being paid by Wisconsin taxpayers.)
Next up, Gableman issued subpoenas to a handful of Wisconsin cities, all run by Democrats where Biden did well. The cover letter sent to Milwaukee asked the city to preserve records from Green Bay. Seems nobody proofread the letter. Gableman also subpoened the mayors of those cities to demand that they sit for interviews with him. At a strip mall in Brookfield. Behind closed doors. Never mind that mayors have nothing to do with running elections.
Most of the elections officials and mayors responded with a shrug. They said they would be happy to comply with information requests if Gableman would just ask… and if he knew what he was asking for. They didn’t need to be subpeoned because they weren’t holding anything back.
“If there was fraud, it wasn’t in my county,” Christopher Marlow, the Lincoln County clerk, told the AP. “We keep very accurate voter lists and we are diligent in our work. All our voters are alive and received one vote each!” Trump won Lincoln County with 61% of the vote in 2020. Does Gableman think the election was rigged there?
But again, Gableman has no clue what he’s asking for because he has no idea what he’s looking for and doesn’t have the most elementary idea of how elections are conducted. Is it just me? Or if you were asked to investigate an election and were being paid to do it and given a $680,000 taxpayer-funded budget, wouldn’t you feel compelled to first spend some time, oh I don’t know, getting schooled on how the process worked?
Instead of reading up on Wisconsin election law, Gableman travelled at taxpayer expense to Arizona where a widely discredited partisan “forensic audit” was being conducted by a firm called Cyber Ninjas, which like Gableman, knows nothing about elections, but may know a great deal about teenage mutant turtles. I guess he wanted to learn from the clueless.
He also took a junket to South Dakota to attend a conference of wacky conspiracy theorists, led by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. Because, of course, nobody knows more about elections than a guy who makes a great pillow.
Gableman’s laziness has left clerks befuddled. Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel- Behl said she wasn’t clear on what Gableman wanted. She explained that her office received 2,000 emails a day as the election approached from people asking for absentee ballots or for other information. Did Gableman want all of that? “If that is the case, our information technology professionals say it would take more than 10 days just to save these e-mail messages as pdf files,” she said. “And then we would need to redact the personally identifiable information.”
Oh, but there’s more. When the Journal Sentinel pressed Gableman’s assistant, Zakory Niemierowicz, on why his boss needed to subpoena election officials and mayors, he said that it was because some had initially refused to cooperate. But Niemierowicz couldn’t produce a single name of a recalcitrant official. He said the information was “classified,” as if we were dealing with national security secrets. When he was pressed further, he just hung up and ended the call.
Now, obviously embarrassed by the mess he created, Gableman has cancelled the subpoenas.
Gableman is hardly an honest broker to begin with. He appeared at a Trump rally days after the election to heavily suggest, without any evidence, that the election was stolen. This from a guy who now admits he has no idea how a sound election is run in the first place — and who has taken not a moment in the intervening 11 months to learn anything about it.
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway summed it up best. “Attorney Gableman said he doesn’t know how elections are run in Wisconsin and I think what he’s made clear is that he doesn’t know how investigations are run either,” Rhodes-Conway said.
This is a farce, and it would be kind of funny if we weren’t talking about a man who is questioning the integrity of a system at the very heart of our democracy without a shred of evidence to justify it.
But don’t blame Gableman entirely. He’s just over his head. But Robin Vos is not. He’s a very smart guy. He knows better. He’s got to be embarrassed by his hire. If Vos had an ounce of self-respect he’d shut down the whole damn thing tomorrow.
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