OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion
A Wisconsin Senate committee has issued a subpoena for absentee ballots and voting machine records from Madison as part of an ongoing investigation into the 2020 election.
“The subpoena — issued by the Senate Committee on Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics and signed by Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), and committee chair Senator Kathleen Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) — calls for the city to turn over all physical absentee ballot certificates for the November 2020 General Election and the results of tests on electronic voting machines used for the election,” local news outlet Channel3000 reported.
“According to LAB’s report, Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl was the only clerk to decline to let the LAB physically handle absentee ballot certificates, citing chain-of-custody concerns,” the outlet reported.
“Having to sign the third subpoena in the history of the Senate is not something I take lightly. It’s unfortunate and concerning that, a few people running elections think they are more important than the electorate,” Kapenga said. “I sign this with the full effect of the law behind it. We are not playing games, and there will be consequences if they don’t comply.”
In a statement, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway cited federal and state laws that require the Clerk of Courts to maintain control of the records requested by the committee.
“As we have already communicated to the Legislative Audit Bureau, they are welcome to examine copies of election records and can have access to all of the information that is on the original documents requested,” the statement reads. “All they have to do is take a three-minute walk to our Clerk’s office.”
Read Rhodes-Conway’s full statement below:Advertisement
“As we have already communicated to the Legislative Audit Bureau, they are welcome to examine copies of election records and can have access to all of the information that is on the original documents requested. All they have to do is take a three-minute walk to our Clerk’s office. Federal and state laws require that our Clerk maintain control over these documents, and those laws carry potential criminal penalties for intentionally violating that duty. We believe the Legislature should listen to their own attorneys, who concluded that this was an accurate interpretation of the law. We do not intend to violate the law simply because Senator Kapenga demands that we do so.”
Wisconsin GOP state Rep. Chris Kapenga said:Advertisement
As part of the State Senate’s deliberate, evidence-based approach to addressing issues within election administration in Wisconsin, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee authorized a comprehensive audit of the November 2020 election in February of this year.
One shocking revelation from the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau’s (LAB) report was the failure of City of Madison Clerk, Maribeth Witzel-Behl, to comply with a lawful request for physical access to records. Out of the thirty municipalities surveyed by LAB auditors, only the City of Madison refused to allow nonpartisan auditors full access to their ballot certificates.
“At a bare minimum, all local, county and state government officials should respect the legal authority and integrity of the LAB,” said Senate Elections Committee Chair Kathy Bernier. “All did, with the exception of Madison. That decision cannot and will not stand.”
“The materials we demand in the subpoena belong to the people of Wisconsin,” said Majority Leader LeMahieu. “We need access to those records to continue the investigation on their behalf.”
“These actions, based on findings of the audit, are part of the Senate’s deliberate, ongoing efforts to restore full faith and confidence in the administration and results of our elections in Wisconsin,” Kapenga said.