Brandtjen Looks Foolish on Election Audit
Even Robin Vos wouldn't support her lame attempt to subpoena election data.
Last week Assembly elections committee chair Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) was slapped down by officials in Milwaukee and Brown counties, who refused to comply with a subpoena for data from the November 2020 election.
On Friday County Clerk George Christenson released a statement rejecting her committee’s subpoena: “The subpoena issued by Representative Brandtjen is invalid,” he declared. “Because this subpoena is not valid, I will not be appearing before the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections on September 7.
“Milwaukee County’s elections are transparent and fair. We have proven this fact on numerous occasions. We conducted our regular post-election canvass and audit. In November, we conducted an extensive and highly publicized recount of the presidential election. Most recently, we participated in the Legislative Audit Bureau’s election audit. These inquiries have consistently shown that there were no major instances of fraud or irregularities in how Milwaukee County administered the November 2020 election.”
Corporation Counsel Margaret Daun also shot down Brandtjen’s request, writing that “because your subpoena was not cosigned by both the presiding officer and the chief clerk of the Assembly, we respectfully submit that it is legally invalid and void.”
Shortly after this an attorney for Republican Brown County Clerk Patrick Moynihan released a letter saying he was taking the same stance.
“In addition,” Hemery wrote, “Brown County has received no contact whatsoever from your office regarding how you propose that Clerk Moynihan pay for the significant unbudgeted costs that would be incurred if he were to comply with your Subpoena… while at the same time complying with his duty to preserve the integrity of the election by retaining custody and control over ballots, machines and other election related original documents and materials located in Brown County that you have requested.”
It was actually weeks ago that lawyers for the nonpartisan Legislative Council issued two different memos finding Brandtjen alone does not have the authority to issue such subpoenas, as WKOW-TV in Madison reported. The council found the subpoenas would need the signatures of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Assembly Chief Clerk Ted Blazel.
Brandtjen admitted to the station that she put the flawed subpoenas together. “I’ll take responsibility for it,” said Brandtjen. “I’m not an attorney. I never claimed to be one.”
Non-attorney Brandtjen had issued 47-point legal subpoenas to Milwaukee and Brown counties that were nearly verbatim to a request made by a Republican lawmaker in Pennsylvania, as Patrick Marley reported. “Among the items Brandtjen sought was signature-matching software, something clerks in Wisconsin don’t use because state law doesn’t require them to check voters’ signatures.”
Even Vos shot down Brandtjen’s effort, refusing to sign her subpoenas, effectively making them illegal.
Vos has rejected her call for an “Arizona-style audit” of the election and has budgeted more than $676,000 for an election probe headed by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman that could cost even more than that. It seems unlikely Vos will also okay a budget for a competing effort by Brandtjen. Vos would probably remove Brandten from her committee leadership position if he didn’t fear the blowback from pro-Trump Republicans in Wisconsin.
Compared to Brandtjen’s embarrassing “investigation,” the one run by Vos is at least legal. Vos has said he will sign subpoenas should Gableman determine this is needed and would doubtless order Blazel to do so as well.
But this probe seems only slightly less of a sham than Brandjen’s. Gableman started off on the wrong foot even before he was appointed by Vos to head the effort, charging that the presidential election was rigged. And since his hiring, Gableman has traveled to South Dakota to see MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s conspiracy-theory symposium that reports say devolved into him ranting about people and groups he felt were out to get him. Gableman’s other reported trip was to Arizona to watch the widely ridiculed Maricopa County Cyber Ninja audit. Vos hasn’t disclosed whether those trips were paid for with a $25,000 travel budget for the election probe.
Should Gableman and Vos decide to subpoena local government election information, Democratic lawyers are likely to file a legal challenge. Brandtjen’s effort was so obviously illegal they didn’t even bother to sue.
Christenson was eager to help out with Gableman’s probe, in a statement that seemed to question just how much the once-elite judge understands about the law. “If former Justice Gableman would like us to participate in his investigation.” Milwaukee’s county clerk declared, “my office is happy to sit down with him to educate him on how elections work.”
- Will Donors Punish Legislators Pushing Election Lies? - Melanie Conklin - Sep 14th, 2021
- Gableman Request For Election Data Questioned - Laurel White - Sep 14th, 2021
- Republican Schools Colleagues on Election Lies - Melanie Conklin - Sep 12th, 2021
- GOP Election Probes ‘Bad Faith Efforts,’ Bipartisan Group Says - Laurel White - Sep 8th, 2021
- Politicians attack voters’ freedoms and use taxpayer dollars for election review scams - League of Women Voters of Wisconsin - Sep 7th, 2021
- Back in the News: Brandtjen Looks Foolish on Election Audit - Bruce Murphy - Sep 7th, 2021
- Taxpayers Funding Gableman’s Travel - Melanie Conklin - Sep 5th, 2021
- Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson Rejects Invalid Subpoena - George Christenson - Sep 3rd, 2021
- Republicans Divided Over Election Audits - Melanie Conklin - Sep 1st, 2021
- County Clerk Christenson: “Our Elections are Fair, Transparent, Accurate, and Secure” - George Christenson - Aug 6th, 2021
Read more about 2020 General Election here