Milwaukee election official among several subpoenaed by election investigator

NOW: Milwaukee election official among several subpoenaed by election investigator

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MILWAUKEE Wis. (CBS 58) – The leader of a Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 presidential election issued his first subpoenas Thursday and Friday. The subpoenas seek information from several city clerks and election officials throughout the state about funds that were used to run the 2020 election.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, in charge of the GOP election review, issued subpoenas to the director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, as well as election officials in Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, and Racine, as well as the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Gableman is directing them to meet in Brookfield October 15th.

Milwaukee City Clerk Claire Woodall-Vogg declined to comment on the subpoenas.

Earlier this week, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) defended the $676,000 investigation, and the subpoenas, when he said, "I am supremely confident that at the end of the day, Justice Gableman will produce a report that shows there were issues with the 2020 election." But just four cases of voter fraud have been uncovered out of roughly 3 million total votes, and a recount certified President Biden won Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes.

Last year, a group directed more $10 million in election grants to five Wisconsin cities. Republicans argue the money was designed to boost voter turnout in largely Democratic regions. Those grants were then dispersed to 200 communities across the state in an effort to help them cover election costs during the pandemic. The grant was awarded to Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee and Racine from the group Center for Tech and Civic Life. The group made other donations across the county.

Speaker Vos reiterated the goal of the investigation is not to challenge the election results, adding documents should be made available before they're asked for. He said, "It's only, it appears, if people have something to hide or they don't want to turn things over, that they would fight against it."

But Celestine Jeffreys, the City Clerk in Green Bay, said her office already made election documents available online earlier this year in order to be as transparent as possible. She said, "We've really done a good job of being as above-board as we possibly can. Without being asked a question."

Representative Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), the ranking Democrat on the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections says the committee is not scheduled to be at the hearing, so he's not sure these subpoenas are legally valid, or that clerks should show up. He said, "There's a real question to me of whether Michael Gableman is trying to have this testimony compelled behind closed doors."

Representative Spreitzer accused Speaker Vos of trying to suppress voters, and doesn't know how Republicans will wrap up the investigation. "I don't think there's ever going to be a neat report that satisfies everybody where they tie a bow on it and say 'we're done here'."

Additional cities who received in the private funds could also be on the list to receive subpoenas.

Last month Gableman released a rare, six-minute video warning clerks he would issue subpoenas.

"We are not challenging the results of the 2020 election, rather we are holding government officials accountable to the public for their actions surrounding the elections," Gableman said in the video.

Gableman was hired by Speaker Robin to oversee the probe, which gives him the authority to issue subpoenas.

"Ensuring the 2020 election was conducted fairly and legally is critically important to maintaining faith in our election system," Vos said in a statement. "Justice Gableman is dedicated to finding the truth and has determined subpoenas are necessary to move forward in his investigation."

This marks the first time in decades lawmakers have issued subpoenas.

Representative Spreitzer called the subpoenas a waste of time after a federal judge ruled last year the election funds were valid. He said, "Disgraced Trump-aligned attorneys have already wasted hours across multiple hearings proclaiming their dislike for local municipalities seeking the funds they need to administer elections." He added, "By issuing these subpoenas, it is now clear that Speaker Vos is using every power available to him to placate far-right extremists."

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