Elections chair initiates a forensic Arizona-style audit in Wisconsin

By: - July 27, 2021 6:00 am
An audit employee on June 9, 2021, works at a station that images ballots to detect alleged counterfeit ballots.

An audit employee on June 9, 2021, works at a station that images ballots to detect alleged counterfeit ballots. Photo by Leah Trinidad | Arizona Republic / pool photo

Apparently Speaker Robin Vos’ hiring of former law enforcement officers to conduct an election investigation, under the direction of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, is not sufficient for some members of his Republican legislative caucus. 

Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), who chairs the Assembly Campaign and Elections Committee, announced Monday she has decided to “initiate a more intensive investigation” of possible election fraud. (Think: Arizona’s search for bamboo filters in ballots to show they might be from China.)

Rep. Janel Brandtjen chairing the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee 3/10/21 | WisEye
Rep. Janel Brandtjen chairing the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee | WisEye

Brandtjen, one of the most rightwing members of the Legislature was appointed by Vos to head the election committee, after he cast aside the less zealous Rep. Ron Tusler (R-Harrison) who also has publicly voiced his belief in significant fraud in the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin, but has not been as outspoken. Brandtjen has held hearing after hearing on what she claimed was election fraud, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. 

But after traveling to Arizona to observe the audit there — and after Donald Trump castigated Vos and other Wisconsin Republicans on the eve of their convention for not going further — she announced Monday that the committee would be doing another “more thorough investigation of the 2020 fall election.”

“The people of Wisconsin deserve to know the truth about the 2020 election,” she said in a statement, ignoring multiple findings that the 2020 election was legitimate by courts, clerks and investigators. 

Vos and the Assembly voted to give her committee investigatory powers, including the power of subpoena, which her press release confuses with the public power to make an open records request available to any citizen. Earlier this year, Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz called for the removal of Brandtjen and all members of the committee who “promote the lie” that the presidential election was stolen.

This is what Brandtjen wrote to her constituents: “There is no doubt that after the filed affidavits and lawsuit, Donald Trump won this election in Wisconsin and several methods of fraud were used to change the outcome.”

“I appreciate the legislative efforts to restore confidence in our election system, and support the complementary investigative efforts underway to look into localized concerns,” she said. “It is understandable that private citizens and citizen groups have been seeking to conduct their own investigations that their elected representatives have failed to do, but it is important that they be conducted in the most transparent and coordinated way possible. The amount of absentee voting taking place has exposed issues surrounding ballot curing, ‘indefinitely confined’ electors, ballot harvesting and how our tabulators actually work.”

Slamming the nonpartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission that was created by Republicans and “liberal partisan clerks,” she vowed her committee would do a cyber-forensic examination of tabulators, ballot marking devices and other election equipment.

Brandtjen added this unusual statement about voters:

“It is clear there are those who continue to oppose more rigorous examinations of election materials in favor of moving on, or were not displeased with the results of the November 2020 election.”

Brandtjen has on multiple occasions made it clear that she is indeed displeased with the results of the 2020 election.


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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She 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 before returning to journalism at the 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.