Wisconsin Election Officials Will Be Subpoenaed if They Don't Comply With 2020 Investigation

Wisconsin election officials who refuse to comply with the Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 presidential election will be subpoenaed, according to the retired judge leading the investigation.

In a video released Monday, retired conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman said the state's more than 1,900 municipal and county election officials had to cooperate with his investigation or he would "compel" them to comply.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he will sign subpoenas that are requested by Gableman as part of the investigation after formerly refusing to sign subpoenas from Representative Janel Bandtjen.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Wisconsin Recount
The retired judge in charge of Wisconsin's election investigation has threatened to subpoena election officials who don't comply. Election officials listen as procedural issues are argued during the process of recounting ballots from the November 3 election at the Wisconsin Center on November 20, 2020 in Milwaukee. Scott Olson/Getty Images

The unusual six-minute video from Gableman comes after election clerks were confused by an email his office sent last week that was flagged in at multiple counties as junk, a possible security risk and not forwarded to municipal clerks as he wanted.

Vos hired Gableman at a cost of nearly $680,000 in taxpayer money to conduct the investigation.

Vos declined to sign subpoenas sought by Bandtjen, chair of the Assembly elections committee, seeking ballots, voting machines and other data in Milwaukee and Brown counties.

Gableman said local clerks who run elections in Wisconsin will be required to prove that voting was done legally.

"The responsibility to demonstrate that our elections were conducted with fairness, inclusivity and accountability is on the government and on the private, for-profit interests that did work for the government," Gableman said. "The burden is not on the people to show in advance of an investigation that public officials and their contractors behaved dishonestly."

Gableman, in his video where he appears to be standing in front of an image of the state Capitol, said his intent was not to challenge the results of the 2020 election that Biden won in Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes over former President Donald Trump. Some Republicans have called for a broader audit and said they believe there was widespread fraud, despite no evidence of that. Only two people out of about 3.3 million people who cast ballots have been charged with election fraud.

Those pushing for an audit similar to one done in Arizona's Maricopa County have pushed the false claim that the election was stolen from Trump.

Gableman addressed the call from former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Brandtjen and others for a "forensic audit."

"It's important to note that the term forensic audit is a confusing one, and it's confusing because it has no commonly accepted definition," Gableman said. "Rather, the definition of each forensic audit is created by those who control that audit. The Office of Special Counsel is conducting a full investigation in order to get to the truth of what happened in our 2020 election.

Gableman said that investigation may include a "vigorous and comprehensive audit if the facts that are discovered justify such a course of action." He said his goal was "to put everything I know and everything I learned before you, the citizen, so that you can make up your own mind."

Gableman told a group of Trump supporters in November that he thought the election was stolen. A former Trump official appears to be working on the investigation. Gableman has not said who he has hired or submitted any invoices seeking payment yet.

Gableman's investigation has already drawn bipartisan criticism. Republican state Sen. Kathy Bernier, chair of the Senate elections committee, earlier this month, said "there is not a reason to spread misinformation about this past election when we have all the evidence that shows otherwise."

Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said in a statement that Vos and Gableman were "wasting taxpayer funds to serve the political interests of a small group of Republican insiders who want to erode the freedom to vote. It's a sham, a waste of time and money, and it's damaging our democracy."

A review by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, ordered by Republicans, is also ongoing.

Gableman promised to provide updates in a "logical and responsible method" as appropriate, including additional videos.

Michael Gableman
Wisconsin election clerks are reacting with bewilderment to the first inquiry made by Michael Gableman, a special investigator hired by Republicans to examine how the 2020 presidential election was run in the state. Above, then Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Gableman speaks during a court hearing at the Grant County Courthouse in Lancaster, Wisconsin on September 17, 2015. Jessica Reilly/Telegraph Herald via AP, File