Auditors view Madison election records after disagreement over document access

By: - November 23, 2021 2:39 pm
Madison voting

The Wisconsin Capitol on spring election day, April 7, 2020. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

State auditors were allowed to review the records of Madison’s 2020 election after a dispute over access to them was resolved last week. 

At the direction of Republican legislators, the Legislative Audit Bureau spent most of the year investigating the 2020 presidential election. In a report released last month, the auditors found that the election was conducted safely and securely but recommended policy changes to be made by members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission and the Legislature over issues including absentee ballot drop boxes and voting in nursing homes. 

While conducting their investigation, auditors requested ballots and other election records from municipalities across the state. City of Madison officials had refused to just give the records to the auditors, citing guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice about the chain of custody of election materials. 

Madison election officials instead offered to provide copies or supervised access to the records, but that offer was ignored and not mentioned in the final report.

Officials in Milwaukee and Little Suamico in Oconto County also refused to provide full access to records but Republicans seized on Madison’s decision as a possible source of wrongdoing as they continue to search for problems with the election. 

Last week, Madison Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl wrote a letter to auditors in response to a subpoena for the election records. In that letter she offered to provide auditors with ballots one at a time so the chain of custody could be maintained. 

The offer was accepted and auditors spent eight hours reviewing the ballots, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported

The results of the audit bureau’s report has instigated further investigations into the 2020 election by Senate Republicans. Assembly Republicans’ partisan review of the election, run by former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is still ongoing.


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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.