Vos wants to keep records of partisan election review away from the public
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos | Screenshot from Nov. 17 2020 news conference
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wants to keep records of the partisan review into the 2020 presidential election hidden from the public until after the review is completed — telling multiple news outlets Tuesday that releasing the records would be like a district attorney turning over files during a murder investigation.
The review is being conducted, under the direction of Vos, by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. The state’s open records law grants exemptions to ongoing criminal investigations but those exemptions don’t apply to the Legislature.
Vos has repeatedly made contradictory statements about the results of the 2020 election, telling mainstream media outlets he believes Joe Biden won while he tells right-wing outlets the burden is on local governments to prove there was nothing wrong with the way the election was administered.
Gableman and his staff have also made several statements showing they believe Biden won the election fraudulently — a claim there is no evidence for.
When pressed, Gableman and Vos have not come up with any claims about election fraud that haven’t already been proven false. Their probe also ignores the results of the lawsuits, court orders and recounts that have affirmed Biden’s win in Wisconsin.
Even though Vos and his investigators have claimed the outcome of their review is not predetermined, and that they will follow the facts wherever they lead, Vos told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he didn’t want to release the records — which have been requested by news outlets and nonprofit organizations — because he didn’t want to give perceived wrongdoers an “advantage.”
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“If you think about just the basic way an investigation is conducted, if the district attorney decides they’re going to try to find out who killed somebody on the street corner, they do not put out for public display, for everybody to read, who they’re talking to and who they’re investigating — giving an advantage to the people who actually committed the crime to avoid prosecution,” Vos said. “That’s exactly what would happen if we decided to put all the documents out.”
The review was given a budget of $680,000 and was supposed to come to a close this month. On Tuesday, Vos told WPR that it could go until the end of the year and wouldn’t say if additional funds would be approved.
The review has been widely criticized as harmful to democracy as Gableman has taken trips to Arizona and South Dakota to hear from prominent conspiracy theorists and made a number of decisions that have led local officials to question his professionalism.
The fight over public access to Gableman’s investigation has been ongoing since it began. Many of his subpoenas and requests for documents sent to elections officials in the state’s biggest cities had already been released through previous records requests by the public or turned over to the Assembly elections committee — which is supposedly in charge of the review.
Earlier this month, American Oversight, a liberal nonprofit group, filed and won a lawsuit against Vos and the Assembly in Dane County Court to force the release of records. Requests had been filed for a number of documents created by the investigation but members of the Assembly only turned over documents of their own, not from Gableman or his staff. The Assembly has until Nov. 5 to turn over these records or prove why they must remain secret.
On Monday, American Oversight filed another lawsuit, this time just against Vos, seeking to force more records, which are under Vos’ control, to be made public.
The American Oversight lawsuit is looking to force Vos to release documents created by Vos regarding his management of the review; the timeline and methodologies guiding the review and Vos’ communications with his staff and others about it.
The lawsuit alleges that Vos has not turned over all the records that would apply to a request filed in May.
“Speaker Vos has done everything in his power to protect this investigation from scrutiny,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said in a statement. “Finger-pointing, name-calling, and indulging conspiracy theorists are all perfectly legal — but ignoring the open records statute is not. It’s time for Speaker Vos to follow the law and make these documents available to the public.”
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