Assembly elections chair calls for transparency

Rep. Sanfelippo did not speak for the committee says Chair Tusler

hand putting slip of paper into a box to vote
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Rep. Ron Tusler, the chair of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, says that over the past weekend, his office received around 1,000 calls from people who do not trust the presidential election results between the time Speaker Robin Vos announced his committee would review the election late last Friday and Monday at 9 am.

“There are some people who believe that our electoral process worked perfectly on November 3, there are many people … that do not trust the results of this election,” Tusler (R-Harrison) says. “And we need people to have faith in our elections in Wisconsin.”

Rep. Ron Tusler
Rep. Ron Tusler

The vice-chair of the elections committee, Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), drew a lot of attention and criticism with his press release raising the possibility of re-doing the Wisconsin presidential election or ordering all 10 of Wisconsin’s electors (who are actually chosen by the party) to vote for Donald Trump instead of Joe Biden. The current count has Biden 20,500 votes ahead — a margin even Vos, who called for this hearing, admits would be hard to overcome in a recount.

Legal experts told the Examiner Sanfelippo’s proposed remedies would violate the process and the law.

As chair, Tusler makes it clear the committee’s goals are different.

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo official portrait
Rep. Joe Sanfelippo

“Joe’s statements are not the statements of our committee,” he says. “They are of a single representative and his feelings and his concerns about this election.”

First, says Tusler, information needs to be gathered, which is where witnesses — some of whom may be subpoenaed although he said that power may not be utilized — come in. 

“I think that we, at this point, need to try to preserve the election that we have,” Tusler says. “I think we need to look into a lot of issues. And if there were some massive amount of fraud, it should be the case that we can remove that fraud from our results and our results just are different than they currently are. If there isn’t a vast amount of fraud, then there isn’t any reason to take that kind of drastic action.”

Tusler says he will invite members of the Senate Committee on Elections, Ethics and Rural Issues to join with his committee so there would be no need for a duplication of efforts. He has yet to speak with Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), the Senate committee chair, but hopes to find a time later next week, after canvassing is completed, to hold a hearing.

A second hearing, if needed, could be held the following week, Tusler says.

The only person he mentioned he definitely wants to speak is Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe, who has already been speaking publicly about the success of the transparent Wisconsin elections and who Tusler predicts will be helpful and cooperative. 

But, he says, once the county canvass is over on Nov. 17, more information will be available. As of Thursday morning, 55 out of 72 Wisconsin counties had already turned in their canvassed results to the Wisconsin Elections Commission viewable on its website, and the net result stands at a gain of votes for Biden

After the Nov. 17 deadline for completion of the county canvass, a candidate can request a recount, as the Trump campaign has stated it will do. The current margin is under a 1% difference so a recount is permitted, but not close enough that the state will pay for it.

Larger counties, including Dane, Waukesha, Brown and Milwaukee have not yet submitted canvassing reports. Tusler said Milwaukee was likely to be a focal point because Sanfelippo, who represents the suburbs, had zeroed in on it and had concerns.

Asked if he personally believes there was fraud in Wisconsin’s presidential election, Tusler says he sees no smoking gun requiring “drastic action,” but asserts that all elections have some level of fraud, which he broadly defines to include someone who took some improper action.

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Statutory fraud in Wisconsin is a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 3.5 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. This has been reported just 19 times out of seven million ballots in the last five Wisconsin elections, according to the Elections Commission.

“It’s really a matter of how much fraud. And given the number of people that voted in this election … it was a record-breaking election, you’re probably going to have record-breaking fraud,” Tusler says.

Tusler clarifies that he is not assuming there were problems on a level that could necessarily alter the election results. “That doesn’t mean that it’s 20,000 votes, that doesn’t mean that it’s 1,000 votes. And the other thing is, record-breaking fraud can go both ways. So you can find out you had an equal number of folks that committed fraud on one side as the other side, and it levels out, and it really is a nonfactor.”

What matters most is public confidence, he says, “So this is all about transparency, it’s all about just trying to help people understand what happened in this election.”

Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.