Scope of Gableman's election investigation now includes Racine County sheriff allegations at nursing homes
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Allegations by the Racine County sheriff that the state elections commission broke the law during the pandemic is now catching the attention of another investigator, retired Justice Michael Gableman.
Gableman, who was hired by Republicans to review the 2020 election, said the scope of his investigation will now include allegations the state elections commission broke the law for telling clerks to send absentee ballots to nursing homes instead of poll workers to help residents vote during the pandemic.
That matter is the focus of the Racine County sheriff's investigation which claims WEC's decision to prohibit election officials from entering nursing homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 resulted in employees helping incompetent residents vote.
Racine County Lt. Michael Luell, who led the investigation with Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, testified to lawmakers on the Assembly Elections Committee about his review.
"This matter is not a political matter, this is a criminal investigation," Luell said. "We are not looking to overturn any elections, what we are trying to do is hold the government accountable."
Racine officials have recommended criminal charges against WEC commissioners, but Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson has yet to file charges or respond publicly about it.
Democrats on the committee called Luell's report politically driven since there have been no charges brought forth.
"Aren’t you trying to make this a political issue because you couldn’t convince the Racine County DA to bring charges?" Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) asked Luell.
"People want this problem addressed, so it's not political," Luell responded.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission has said they did not break the law and approved a rule to send absentee ballots to nursing homes during the pandemic in effort to keep residents safe.
Gableman testified after Luell and said he's going to expand his investigation to look into WEC guidance issued to clerks during the pandemic.
It was the first time Gableman testified in public to members on the election committee, but he didn't reveal many details about his investigation.
Gableman did express it's been difficult for him to get election records from municipalities, saying most are not cooperating with his review.
He issued subpoenas to five cities seeking election documents and interviews, but he has not conducted interviews because officials are reluctant to meet with him in private.
The former Supreme Court justice also defended his review, saying his focus is to restore confidence in elections, but Democrats didn't buy it.
"I think you, quite frankly, are one of the people that are undermining voting credibility in our elections and doing damage to our democracy," said Spreitzer.
Gableman responded, "That's ridiculous…if you're so confident, representative, that this election was a model of integrity, you are in the minority in this country."
Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) repeatedly asked Gableman, who's being paid over $670,000 in taxpayer funds, to reveal who's on his staff.
"I think we deserve to know who we are paying, because we need to know - are they partisan people or were they working on the Trump campaign a year ago?" Emerson said.
Gableman declined to disclose that information, but said once his report is complete it will be released to the public.