Madison, Wis. — Wisconsin elections clerks are reacting with a mix of concern and confusion to the first investigation conducted by a Republican-appointed special investigator to investigate how the 2020 presidential election was run on the battlefield.
On Monday, the principal investigator’s email landed in the junk folders of at least seven counties and was not received by at least 11 others, based on an Associated Press survey of all 72 county election clerks. Many who received it flagged it as a security risk.
Clerks in at least six counties said they would not forward emails to municipalities in their jurisdiction, as requested by the investigator, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. Gableman is a conservative who told a group of Trump supporters last year that the election had been stolen.
“If there was fraud, it wasn’t in my county,” Lincoln County Clerk Christopher Marlowe told the AP. “We keep a very accurate voter list and we are diligent in our work. All our voters are alive and have got one vote each!”
Former President Donald Trump won Lincoln County in 2020 with 61% of the vote.
The pushback and confusion from clerks is just the latest twist in Wisconsin, where conservatives over Trump’s encouragement are ordering an investigation into the 2020 election. President Joe Biden reduced the state by just 21,000 votes.
Republicans have authorized an investigation by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, which is expected this fall. A handful of Republicans, including the chair of the Assembly Elections Committee, are pushing for a comprehensive review similar to the much-anticipated effort in Arizona led by Cyber Ninja, a small cybersecurity firm based in Florida chosen to lead the review.
The chair of the election committee, Rep. Janelle Brantzen, tried to tame voting machines, ballots and other election data in two counties. But his request was rejected by both counties, citing a state law that said the summons had to be signed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to be valid.
Vos said he would not sign them.
Instead, Vos hired Gableman to lead another investigation, at a cost to taxpayers of about $680,000.
But it’s off to a rocky start.
Vos, two retired police detectives, initially hired Gableman to help him land the job this summer, saying the job would take longer than he expected. Vos then modified the contract with Gableman, giving him the right to hire whoever he wanted.
Gableman has already traveled to Arizona and attended a conference in South Dakota led by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, where election conspiracy theorists gave presentations. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday that Gableman is also consulting with the defeated US Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai, who appeared in a conspiracy theory film that falsely claimed to have destroyed a million ballots in Massachusetts.
The Gableman investigation has drawn bipartisan criticism.
On Monday, an email signed by Gableman was sent to at least 25 of the state’s 72 counties, based on an AP tally. The email included an attachment addressed to clerks asking them to preserve “any and all records and evidence” relating to the 2020 presidential election. It also asks county clerks to share emails with the more than 1,800 municipal clerks running elections.
Even though Gableman’s name was in the body of the email and on the letter attached, the email itself came from someone named “John Delta” at the gmail.com address. The PDF attachment lists “Andrew Kloster” as the author. He is a former Trump administration official and a lawyer who describes himself on Twitter as a “universal right-wing”. Neither he nor Gableman responded to a request for comment.
Shortly after the AP sent Kloster a message on Twitter asking if he had written an email attachment, his old tweets were removed.
Gableman did not say who he hired to assist with the investigation and as of Tuesday morning he had not submitted an invoice for reimbursement.
The format of the email raised concerns in several Wisconsin counties.
“The sender was not the person signing the email and the PDF attachment from an unknown sender is considered suspicious,” Green Lake County Clerk Liz Otto said. “Our IT department has advised to remove any and all suspicious emails and/or attachments. Since this email falls under that category, I will not open it nor will I send it to any of our municipal clerks.”
Trump won Green Lake County with 67% of the vote.
Washington County Clerk Ashley Reichert said he received the email but would not open the attachment until his IT department verified that it was safe to do so. Trump won that county with 68% of the vote.
Clerks in the two largest counties, Milwaukee and Dane, said that Gableman did not understand how elections worked because he asked for information kept on voting machines, but all data kept on memory cards and then on servers. is loaded on.
Trump lost in both of those counties and retained Biden’s victory.
Several clerks called on Gableman to preserve records that state and federal law already requires him to retain for 22 months after an election.
“To me it was really a ‘nothing’ letter,” said Wood County Clerk Trent Minor, which Trump won with 59% of the vote.