Brandtjen is a Lunatic

Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) and chair of the Assembly Elections Committee is a stark-raving lunatic. And I’m being kind.

It’s not jut me who thinks this. Her Republican colleague and her counterpart as chair of the Senate committee on elections, Sen. Kathy Bernier of Chippewa Falls, has called Brandtjen’s continued insistence that Wisconsin’s electoral votes for Joe Biden be rescinded, “lunacy.”

Of course it is. The fact that Brandtjen is in any responsible position anywhere in government, much less a person who has some role in overseeing our elections, is just embarrassing and even dangerous. Bernier has suggested that the man who put her there, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, appreciates his mistake and will sack her from that position when that house is reorganized in January. Let’s hope so.

“We have been told for months now that decertification is impossible, meaning there is no downside to cheating in Wisconsin elections. How many more times do we need to endure this election injustice?” Brandtjen wrote in a statement. 

Say what now?

Vos made Brandtjen chair of the Assembly Elections Committee. He needs to sack her in January if not sooner.

What “cheating” is she referring to exactly? There have been all of 24 cases of voter fraud brought in regard to the 2020 election in which 3.3 million votes were cast. Numerous recounts, court challenges, investigations and studies by both nonpartisan groups (the Legislature Audit Bureau) and right-wing organizations (the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty) have not turned up any significant voter fraud or “cheating.” In fact, the conservative Heritage Foundation found Wisconsin’s election system to be one of the most secure and reliable in the nation.

So, what planet is Brandtjen living on? Is she referring to drop boxes? Those were widely used in communities that went strongly for Biden and others that went overwhelmingly for Trump. The state Supreme Court has now ruled — long after the fact — that they are not authorized under Wisconsin law and cannot be used going forward. But nothing in that ruling does anything to invalidate the ballots that were cast using them in the past.

And, anyway, nobody is alleging that anything about ballots cast in drop boxes was fraudulent. They were perfectly valid ballots that just happened to be delivered in a manner that turned out not to be specifically authorized in the statutes. It’s a technicality at most.

Or maybe she’s referring to the grants that came from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. Those grants were used for the drop boxes and other outreach efforts designed to make it easier for everyone to vote, especially given disruptions stemming from the pandemic. The grants went to every community that applied for one and, like the drop boxes themselves, they went to places that ended up voting for both Biden and Trump. Court challenges to the grants have been dismissed.

Now on this one, I tend to agree that private grants for public administration of elections are just generally a bad idea. Liberals tend to like the CTCL grants because they come from Mark and Chan Zuckerberg, who are thought of as liberals. But what if they came from the Koch Foundation? See the problem?

Nonetheless, here again there is zero evidence that these grants led to any kind of fraud or “cheating.” They may be a bad idea, but they didn’t taint or skew the election.

And, while we’re at it, if Brandtjen were right that there was widespread cheating in the last election, what does that say about her own legitimacy? She was elected on the same ballot as was the Republican majority in the Assembly that makes her disgraceful service as a committee chair possible.

Finally, what do you suppose the chances are that, if it was Trump who had won by 20,000 votes, Brandtjen would be talking about any of this? I’m going to go out on a limb and say the answer is “none.” This isn’t about the integrity of our elections; it’s about being a sore loser. Trump, Brandtjen and their ilk are people who failed kindergarten playground 101.

This lunacy out of Brandtjen and her fellow unhinged conspiracy mongers is resulting in real damage to our democracy, not to mention real physical danger for the men and women who work diligently to administer our elections. A recent survey of Dane County elections officials found that 84% of them reported increased harassment and 70% were at least somewhat concerned for their safety and that of the people who work for them. Make no mistake, Brandtjen and the others are directly responsible for this.

The Legislature has always had its share of characters. But the likes of Brandtjen are a new breed of dangerous wackjobs and conspiracy nuts. She’s an embarrassment to her constituents, to the state and especially to Vos. She needs to be sacked at his earliest opportunity. And, if you live in Menomonee Falls, what the hell are you thinking?


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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