Wisconsin Republicans visit much mocked Arizona poll audit site
PHOENIX – Four Wisconsin lawmakers visited the site of a controversial Arizona ballot audit on Saturday alongside Eric Greitens, the former Missouri governor who resigned three years ago after admitting an affair and making in the face of an allegation of blackmail.
What the four Wisconsin Republicans planned to do with the information they gleaned from reviewing the Arizona ballots is unclear.
Their visit coincides with the hiring of former law enforcement officials by the Wisconsin Assembly – at least one with a partisan background – to review the conduct of the presidential election.
As the contingent of lawmakers passed through the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, former President Donald Trump appeared on video at an event in western Wisconsin to make a series of false claims about his loss of the year. last against Joe Biden.
Representative Janel Brandtjen of Menomonee Falls led the Wisconsin delegation to Phoenix. Brandtjen is the chair of the Assembly Elections Committee, which helps oversee the Wisconsin election review.
During the 40-minute visit, Brandtjen and the other Wisconsin lawmakers stood side-by-side with Greitens, who a denied the allegation of blackmail and is now running for the US Senate.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester sanctioned the trip of the Wisconsin delegation. He said on Saturday he was unaware they would be joined by Greitens, who has been criticized by some Republicans for trying to revive his political career.
In an interview last month, Vos showed little interest in what’s going on with over 2 million ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous county. Some Arizona Republicans have called the exam a sham full of errors.
“Do I think they used the wrong type of marker in Arizona?” I have no idea. And that’s not about me – I don’t care because I don’t live in Arizona, ”Vos said in a May 26 interview. “I live in Wisconsin, so I have to work in Wisconsin.”
Nonetheless, two weeks later he approved sending Brandtjen and up to five other lawmakers to Arizona. In the end, Brandtjen was joined by three other Assembly Republicans – Rachael Cabral-Guevara from Appleton, Dave Murphy from Greenville and Chuck Wichgers from Muskego.
Biden narrowly beat // Trump in Arizona and Wisconsin, helping cement his presidential claim. A slew of court rulings confirmed his victory in both states, but Republicans insisted the need for further scrutiny.
Critics, including Republicans, scorned scrutiny of Arizona’s ballot, saying it couldn’t be taken seriously. Started by the Arizona Republican-led state Senate, it’s led by cybersecurity firm Cyber Ninjas, which has never audited election results before.
The US Department of Justice in May raised questions about ballot security. Others have scoffed at the Arizona project because it includes a hunt for bamboo fibers in the ballots in an attempt to bolster an unfounded theory that thousands of ballots were smuggled into Arizona from from Asia.
Rohn Bishop, chairman of the Fond du Lac County Republican Party, said on Saturday that he viewed Arizona’s audit as an unsuccessful waste of time and money, calling the theory of ballots from Asia of “racist limit if not completely”.
“I think it’s pretty ridiculous that Republican officials from Wisconsin went to Arizona for this thing,” Bishop said. “What does this have to do with Wisconsin? I thought they were looking for potential irregularities here.”
He sees a potential bright spot in the Arizona and Wisconsin investigations, as they could persuade skeptical Republicans that Biden’s victory was valid.
“A good chunk of our grassroots voters think something is going on and question the legitimacy of the election,” he said. “It’s not healthy for our democracy and anything we can do to clean the air, I think it’s a good thing.”
He admitted some Republicans might never accept Biden’s victory, saying the final findings in Arizona and Wisconsin could “give them something to hang their tin foil hats on.”
That’s exactly what’s going to happen, said Katie Hobbs, Arizona Democratic Secretary of State.
“We already know that the results we certified were accurate, but they created an atmosphere for the preparation of the books,” she said.
She said the people of Wisconsin should “take whatever legal avenues you have to try to stop” something like what’s going on in Arizona.
In Wisconsin, Trump appeared by video at a rally in St. Croix County hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, which was sued and banned by social media sites, television networks and retailers for its false allegations of ballot rigging.
As he has done in the past, Trump during his 15-minute appearance falsely claimed he won Wisconsin. He played down his ties to the Arizona election review, even though Arizona Senate Speaker Karen Fann said Trump thanked her to start the effort.
“They are amazing American patriots and let’s see what they do – this is their audit. This is not my audit. I have nothing to do with it,” Trump said on a Jumbotron serving as a canvas. background at Lindell’s rally scene in New Richmond.
“The people of the state don’t understand elections and it’s a good thing to do what they do because they have to understand. When they don’t believe in elections, it’s a very, very bad thing. for our country, ”he said.
Over 100 workers and volunteers
In Phoenix, supporters of the revised ballot sat in a parking lot near the Colosseum under a tent adorned with American and Israeli flags and a hand-painted banner that proclaimed: “We will not be ruled by criminals.” .
Inside, over 100 workers and volunteers dressed in brightly colored T-shirts chatted while going about their jobs. Teams in red, blue and green placed ballots on easels mounted on rotary tables, then rotated them in front of volunteers seated around the table so they could count them. Teams in yellow and gray photographed ballots and placed them in ballot boxes.
The trip of the Wisconsin delegation was funded by Votes and votes, a group directed by Christina Bobb and Chanel Rion of One America News Network, a conservative outlet that has raised funds for the Arizona poll review on air.
Arizona officials did not disclose how much was collected privately for the effort.
The privately funded trip to Arizona comes as Brandtjen and other Republicans attack Wisconsin municipalities for accepting more than $ 10 million from a private group, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, for help administer their elections last year. Most of the money went to Wisconsin’s five largest, heavily Democratic cities.
“Look, this kind of interaction with third parties in elections is what gives everyone a break – should give everyone, Democrats and Republicans – because transparency and fairness in elections is what people demand, “Brandtjen said at the press conference. a recent interview on One America News.
Brandtjen did not say whether she thought it was appropriate for Arizona officials to accept private funds for their review of the ballots. She did not say why she accepted a privately funded trip in light of her opposition to private donations for election administration. She and other Wisconsin lawmakers did not answer phone calls on Saturday.
Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, said she was troubled by the lack of details on who is funding the recount.
“People in Russia could pay for everything we know,” she said.
The trip to Arizona comes as Republicans challenge Wisconsin’s election on several fronts. They seek to change election laws and have asked the non-partisan Legislative Audit Office to review how the election was administered.
Last month, Vos hired a lawyer and former law enforcement officials who can use the legislature’s subpoena power to collect documents. Among those he hired is former Milwaukee Police Detective Mike Sandvick, who served on a Wisconsin Republican Party committee and as a detective wrote a report on problems with the 2004 election. , which was later disowned by prosecutors and the FBI.
Brandtjen did not say whether she wanted to take the Arizona approach to Wisconsin.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said he didn’t believe Wisconsin lawmakers could legally seize ballots and machines from him or other clerks. He will fight them if they try, he said, calling such a move an “existential threat to our democracy.”
He said the Arizona review did not improve public confidence in the election because journalists and most members of the public can’t get close enough to see what’s going on. This is in contrast to the accounts in Wisconsin that Trump requested and which have been closely watched by observers on both sides.
“If you can’t see the ballot and how people are counting it, you don’t have a recount,” McDonell said. “It’s a play. It’s a drama. It’s not real.”
Molly Beck of Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.