MADISON – Assembly Republicans sought Friday to jail the chairwoman of the state Elections Commission, Racine’s mayor and other officials as part of their months-long review of the 2020 presidential election.
The court filing marked the latest shift in approach for Michael Gableman, a former state Supreme Court justice who is leading the review for the Republicans. Three days ago, he abandoned far-reaching subpoenas he issued in January to the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera Action.
A month ago an attorney working with Gableman told a judge he was hoping to avoid trying to jail the mayors of Madison and Green Bay.
But on Friday Gableman intensified his efforts, telling Waukesha County Circuit Judge Ralph Ramirez he should incarcerate those mayors and others if they don’t sit for interviews with him behind closed doors.
The officials have said they are willing to talk to Gableman but don’t believe he should be able to do so out of the view of the public. They argue the interviews should be conducted before a legislative committee.
Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by nearly 21,000 votes in Wisconsin. Recounts and court rulings confirmed Biden’s win. A legislative audit and a study by a conservative group found no evidence of significant fraud.
Republican lawmakers have said they launched their review because they still have questions about the election.
Gableman’s latest filing targeted Ann Jacobs, the Democratic chairwoman of the bipartisan Elections Commission; Satya Rhodes-Conway, the mayor of Madison; Eric Genrich, the mayor of Green Bay; Cory Mason, the mayor of Racine; the city clerks of Madison and Green Bay; two Milwaukee workers; and information technology employees for the Elections Commission and the state Department of Administration.
Rhodes-Conway in a statement said Gableman’s review had “gone off the rails” because he has expanded his effort to jail officials after saying he was trying to avoid doing so.
“It’s an awfully bold move for someone we don’t even know is authorized to conduct an investigation,” her statement said.
Gableman initiated his lawsuit in November and amended it on Friday. Ramirez has scheduled a hearing for April to help him determine how far Gableman’s powers go.
Gableman’s authority is being tested in a lawsuit in Dane County brought by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul. Kaul represents the Elections Commission and other state officials.
Dane County Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford in January declined to immediately block subpoenas Gableman issued to the Elections Commission, saying she would decide later whether they are valid.
Voces intervened in that lawsuit after it received subpoenas from Gableman. Once that happened, Gableman backed off and withdrew the subpoenas.
Gableman has been working at the direction of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican from Rochester. Vos has given Gableman a taxpayer-funded budget of $676,000.
Vos on Friday said on WISN-AM (1130) that Gableman has issued more than 100 subpoenas. Dozens of those subpoenas have never been made public.
Vos this week said he expected Gableman to publish a report this month. Gableman’s work was initially supposed to be complete by last fall.
The litigation over Gableman’s work is likely to take months to resolve. Taxpayers are covering much of that legal work.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Republicans seeks to jail officials in 2020 election review