City officials: Republicans embracing Trump's election theories causing an uptick in threats ahead of August primary
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee and Madison officials are blaming Republicans embracing unproven election theories pushed by former President Donald Trump for a recent uptick in threats made against election officials.
On Tuesday, a group of Milwaukee County board supervisors and officials with the Madison mayor's office introduced resolutions condemning attacks against election workers and attempts to spread misinformation about the results.
"We must stand strong against threats of violence and reprisal aimed at election administrators, and we must condemn continued attempts to discredit the validity of our elections, to spread misinformation, and to overturn the results of free, fair elections," Milwaukee County Supervisors Felesia Martin, Willie Johnson, Ryan Clancy, Steven Shea, and Peter Burgelis said in a joint statement.
Madison City Council members will also consider enhancing penalties for individuals who threaten or harass election officials, a fine that could cost up to $1,000, according to Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.
A poll of nearly 600 election workers found one in six have experienced threats and nearly one in three said they know of at least one local election worker who left their job in part because of fears of their safety due to threats or intimidation, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
The effort by both cities came days after former President Donald Trump called on top Republicans to nullify absentee ballots cast using drop boxes in wake of the State Supreme Court decision Friday that ruled unstaffed drop boxes are illegal.
Trump also called on state lawmakers to revoke President Joe Biden's victory in a string of posts on his social media platform.
"This type of irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric itself encourages threats and acts of violence instead of discouraging those attacks on our clerks and our poll workers," said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway during a press conference when referring to Trump supporters who peddle disinformation.
It comes weeks ahead of the Aug. 9 primary as Republican candidates running for governor continue to raise questions about the legitimacy of the 2020 election on the campaign trail.
Tim Michels, a construction businessman who secured Trump's endorsement, told WKOW-TV he "would need to see the details" when asked if he would sign a bill to overturn the 2020 election during a campaign event in Green Bay Tuesday.
In June, Michels told CBS 58 he was unsure if the election was stolen from Trump despite court rulings, audits and recounts confirming President Joe Biden's victory over Trump in Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes.
Michels is competing with former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and State Rep. Tim Ramthun in the GOP primary race for governor. The winner will advance and face off against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November.
Ramthun renewed calls for the Legislature to decertify Biden's win, which legal experts say is impossible. The Republican revised a resolution Tuesday claiming he can revoke Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes after the Supreme Court ruled ballot drop boxes are prohibited under state law.
"[The resolution] is more powerful, it has more depth, and it's to re-emphasize the term decertification," Ramthun said.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has ignored Ramthun's previous attempts to call the resolution to the floor.
Kleefisch has said there's "no clear path" to decertifying the election in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in March. She instead pushed Republicans to focus on election integrity measures.
The former Lt. Governor most recently refused to answer a yes or no question whether the election was stolen during a governor's debate moderated by conservative radio show host Joe Giganti.