Ramthun, Brandtjen speak at rally in Capitol pushing recall of Wisconsin’s 2020 electoral votes
Rep. Tim Ramthun addresses a crowd of election conspiracy theorists. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)
Two Wisconsin lawmakers, one of whom is running for governor, spoke at a rally in the state Capitol on Tuesday to push for the passage of a resolution that would recall the state’s 10 electoral college votes — a move that nonpartisan legal staff has said is impossible.
The lawmakers, Reps. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) and Tim Ramthun (R-Campbellsport), spoke at the rally about their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Brandtjen told attendees that “you’re not crazy” and Ramthun said the Legislature needs to “peel the onion” on the 2020 election, which numerous lawsuits, audits, investigations and reviews have affirmed was safe, secure and won by Joe Biden.
The rally, which had about 200 attendees, was organized by Jefferson Davis, a former Menomonee Falls village president who has repeatedly called for a “full forensic physical and cyber audit” of the 2020 election.
“Consider me a nutter,” Davis said as he discussed the accurate assertions of media outlets and others that his beliefs about the 2020 election are conspiracy theories.
The rally was held to gather support and push for the passage of Assembly Joint Resolution 120. The resolution, authored by Ramthun, aims to recall Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes and includes a number of the allegations of fraud and illegal actions that Republicans have levied against election administrators for the past 15 months.
The actions the resolution treats as suspect include the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, the acceptance of grant money to help fund election administration, the sending of absentee ballots to nursing home residents in order to avoid in-person visits by election workers to elderly people especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and the methods used to maintain the state’s voter registration lists. All of the resolution author’s allegations and theories have repeatedly been refuted by election administrators and the Legislature’s nonpartisan attorneys have said “there is no mechanism in state or federal law for the Legislature to reverse certified votes cast by the Electoral College and counted by Congress.”
Once the resolution was introduced, Republican Assembly leadership quickly referred it to the rules committee, where they said it would not advance.
“Rep. Ramthun just attempted to pass an Assembly resolution to recall WI’s presidential electors. Not only is it illegal, it’s just plain unconstitutional,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) tweeted. “As chair of the Rules Committee, there is ZERO chance I will advance this illegal resolution.”
Ramthun, who announced his campaign for governor on Saturday, said at the rally that his own constitutional lawyers dispute the illegality of his resolution and that he is running for governor because of the large number of voters who have complained to him about “election integrity.”
“You represent the majority of the state, in my opinion,” Ramthun told the crowd.
Also speaking at the rally was Ivan Raiklin, whom Ramthun and Davis called a constitutional law expert — though a December 2021 report by Reuters found that he doesn’t practice that area of law, having never argued a case or written an article on the topic.
Raiklin, a former Green Beret who is facing an internal investigation by the Army Reserve for violating rules about partisan political activity, is an ally of Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has become a key figure in the QAnon conspiracy movement.
Raiklin, according to the New York Times, was at the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2020, though he insists he did not go inside the building.
As Raiklin spoke, the crowd gave loud ovations when he mentioned national figures in the election conspiracy movement, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
Speakers and rally goers made a number of attacks against other Wisconsin Republicans who they believe are being “weak” in efforts to overturn the election.
Raiklin accused former U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus as being part of a conspiracy against Trump. Attendees carried signs criticizing Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) and Steineke, with signs that said “Toss Vos” and demanding that Steineke “get a spine.” A flier handed out by attendees accused Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), one of the body’s most right-wing members, of being a “RINO,” which is short for “Republican in name only.”
The rally’s speakers and attendees were making these attacks even though most Republican lawmakers have indulged in some level of election conspiracism. Vos himself appointed Brandtjen as chair of the Assembly elections committee and appointed former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to lead a widely criticized partisan review of the 2020 election.
Last week, Brandtjen used her position atop the elections committee to gather testimony from a convicted felon who says he’s using a “supercomputer” to find millions of illegal voter registrations — a claim he declined to provide evidence for and that elections administrators said was false.
One of the attendees, Robert Relph, is a Republican running to replace retiring Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point). Relph, whose platform includes the elimination of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, says he was at the rally because he supports Brandtjen’s work and if elected he’ll work to make it harder to vote.
“We need tougher laws on who can vote, when they can vote,” Relph says. “We’ve made it too easy for people. We encourage people to vote, but in the right way.”
Rallies at the Capitol advocating for an impossible and unconstitutional resolution to overturn an election that was decided more than a year ago are exactly what happens when conspiracies are encouraged by party leadership, says James Widgerson, editor-in-chief of conservative media outlet RightWisconsin.
“This is a sign of what happens when Republican leaders that know better don’t speak up and it encourages the lunatic wing of the Republican party to become more visible, more active, to feed off the silence of responsible Republican leaders,” Widgerson says. “It allows people like Ramthun to fill that silence with their own insane rhetoric and gain a following. There’s no pushback.”
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