Democrats walk out of Republican-led hearing aimed at investigating potential voter fraud

NOW: Democrats walk out of Republican-led hearing aimed at investigating potential voter fraud

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A partisan showdown on Friday, Dec. 11, at the State Capitol centered around the 2020 presidential election. Republican leaders called a committee hearing aimed at investigating concerns about potential voter fraud, but Democrats called it a "sham."

The Assembly and Senate elections committees held a joint hearing Friday at the Capitol where only invited speakers were allowed to give testimony. Testimonies were capped at 20 minutes, including questions from committee members. Republican lawmakers appeared in person, while most Democrats appeared via Zoom.

The Republican chairs of the two committees questioned the validity of election results across the state and in Milwaukee County. 

Democrats asked why the state's chief elections official, Meagan Wolfe, was not invited to speak at the hearing.

The first witness was conservative radio host Dan O'Donnell. He detailed stories he says he collected from anonymous voters. 

"I actually was surprised that you were the first testifying today," Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) told O'Donnell. "I would have thought that we might have been hearing from somebody like Meagan Wolfe."

"With all due respect, I found more vote fraud than Meagan Wolfe because I was actually looking," O'Donnell replied.

Republican lawmakers said they've received thousands of concerns about the 2020 presidential election.

"I'd like to think there was no fraud, but there was fraud. We have specific cases. We have complaints. There was fraud. It's always a question of how much fraud," said Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville).

"I'm making sure that we do follow through and address many of these concerns and find out what is fact and what is fiction," said committee chair Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls).

They say they've heard concerns that clerks added missing information to ballots and voters could not properly observe Milwaukee Central Count.

Dean Knudson, a Republican commissioner on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, disputed the claims of fraud.

"I have not seen credible evidence of large scale voter fraud in Wisconsin during the November election," Knudson said.

Most Democrats left in the middle of the hearing. They said it was "disgraceful" that elections officials weren't given the chance to respond to the lawmakers' claims.

"I am flabbergasted by the way this hearing is being run, and the idea that you're giving 20 minutes including questioning is utterly ridiculous," Subeck said.

Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said in a statement he was not invited to speak during the hearing, but "there is zero evidence of any voter fraud in Milwaukee County."

“If Legislative Republicans were truly interested in a good-faith, fact-based inquiry, they could have invited local clerks such as myself, but instead they have chosen to hear primarily from individuals who continue to promote debunked theories about election fraud," Christenson said.

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