Elections official stands by at rally as speakers spread conspiracies, promote political violence

By: - December 8, 2020 7:00 am
Wisconsin Trump election rally

Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell is seen speaking between two people draped in the flags of right wing movements, the Tea Party and Trumpism. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

One of the six officials charged with administering and protecting Wisconsin’s elections system stood on the steps of the State Capitol Monday afternoon as a group of President Donald Trump’s supporters chanted “stop the steal.” 

Robert Spindell, one of three Republicans on the Wisconsin Elections Commission stood by as speakers spread conspiracy theories about election fraud and COVID-19, compared the 2020 presidential election to Pearl Harbor and advocated for the violent overthrow of the government. 

Spindell, in his short speech to the flag-waving and MAGA hat wearing crowd of Trump voters, said he was attending the rally as a private citizen, not in his capacity as a government official. He said the election fraud committed in the 1950s and 60s by former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley shows election fraud could have been committed this year.

Wisconsin Trump election rally
Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell speaks at the rally. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

While he did not give any specific examples of voter fraud in Wisconsin, Spindell implied, falsely, that it had happened.

“There’s no evidence vote fraud did not occur,” Spindell said, calling for election officials to prove a negative. 

Spindell also went through a laundry list of grievances about elections this year. 

He complained about pre-election lawsuits filed by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Democratic National Committee that attempted to change some election rules to make voting easier during a pandemic. Ultimately these changes were struck down by a federal appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

He complained that the Democrats on the elections commission and the body’s non-partisan staff refused to remove from the voter rolls hundreds of thousands of people who may have moved or died  — a decision that was made to avoid mistakenly disenfranchising people. The status of Wisconsin’s so-called voter purge is still pending an order from the Wisconsin Supreme Court but there’s no evidence dead people voted and people who have moved can update their registration at the polls on Election Day. 

Wisconsin Trump election rally
Evidence of Wisconsin’s year of political protest with pro-Trump protesters stand near anti-police graffiti from Black Lives Matter protests. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

Spindell complained that municipal clerks filled in missing addresses on absentee ballots, a practice allowed under guidance provided by the Wisconsin Elections Commission and which has been in place for previous elections. 

Finally, he complained that candidates from the Green Party and Kanye West were not allowed on the presidential ballot because of issues with their paperwork. Emails showed Spindell attempted to assist the Green Party in its efforts to get on the ballot despite failing to properly file nomination papers. Spindell has repeatedly complained that not allowing West on the ballot, even though his campaign missed the deadline to file, was disenfranchisement of Black voters. 

Wisconsin Trump election rally
A QAnon flag flies in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol at the Dec. 7 pro-Trump election rally. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

“How about Kenyon (sic.) West?” Spindell said. 

At the start of the rally, the largely un-masked crowd gathered closely together to sing “God Bless America,” “The Star Spangled Banner” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The group was outside; still, singing is considered by the CDC to be an especially effective vector of COVID-19 spread. 

Near the singers, a group of 15 people carrying Trump flags did laps of the Capitol while praying the rosary. 

Appearing alongside Spindell was the rally’s headliner, Minnesota native, MyPillow CEO and Trump ally Michael Lindell. Lindell also recently donated to the bail fund of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with killing two people at a racial justice protest in Kenosha in August.

Wisconsin Trump election rally
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell speaks to the crowd. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

Even though other Republicans on the elections commission have definitively announced there were no issues with the state’s election machines, Spindell stood by as Lindell claimed Trump lost Wisconsin because of issues with Dominion voting machines — a disproven conspiracy theory. 

“I would like to stay officially on the record that I have complete confidence in the voting equipment in use in Wisconsin, that I think there is no evidence of systemic problems of software problems programming problems hacking, there’s no evidence of switched votes,” Republican commissioner Dean Knudson said last week.


Lindell, as he argued for the Electoral College to be bypassed so the selection of the president could go to state congressional delegations, stated that Trump had actually won in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona and Pennsylvania. 

Lindell’s proof that Trump won these states was that on election night, the odds at the sportsbooks said Trump was the 3-1 favorite to win. Betting odds on presidential elections aren’t an adequate predictor of outcome. For example, PredictIt, a popular political prediction site, gave Hillary Clinton a chance at being elected president for most of 2020. 

Wisconsin Trump election rally
A rally attendee sits draped in a “Thin Blue Line” pro-police blanket. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

The most prominent speaker was Lindell, but the rally featured a number of other right-wing speakers who  spread conspiracy theories and railed against the threats of communism, socialism and Marxism that they believe President-elect Joe Biden represents. 

The rally, which was part of a “March for Trump” bus tour, is stopping in 27 cities across the country in an attempt to somehow overturn the results of the election. 

“We’re trying to go through all the corrupt states with all the corruption,” one speaker said.

Wisconsin Trump election rally
Release the Kraken is catchphrase for right wing conspiracies signifying the dubious legal strategy of conservative lawyer Sidney Powell. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

But short of any legal remedies, which appear to be dwindling as the president continues to lose in court, the rally speakers said there are other options to fight the election results. 

“The Electoral College is going to fear We the People,” said another speaker. “Learn our 2nd Amendment, we need to know how to fire those handguns, fire those rifles.”

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.