Joint Committee on Campaigns and Elections Hearing | WisCommunity

Joint Committee on Campaigns and Elections Hearing

December 11, 2020 - 9:43am
Wisconsin Capitol

A hearing will be held by the Join Committee on Campaigns and Elections at 10 AM on Friday, Dec. 11. We will embed the live stream here, thanks to Wisconsin Eye, as soon as the hearing starts.

The committee has announced who has been invited to testify, which is almost exclusively conservative and Republican people, including a right-wing talk show host.  Dean Knudson and Robert Spindell are two of the three Republican members of the bi-partisan Wisconsin Elections Commission.

According to a press release from the chair, representative Ron Tusler (R-Harrison) the invited guests include:

Dan O’Donnell

Tom Sylke

Ken Dragotta

Dean Knudson

Michael Gableman

Erick Kaardal

Bob Spindell

Nathan Pease

Scott McDonald (this is apparently a typo and should have bee Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell)

Michael Dean

Rick Baas

Concerned Wisconsin Residents

Talk radio host Dan O'Donnell raised many issues in regard to people in nursing homes and long term care having their vote influenced by staff members.

WEC member Dean Knudson stated that there is no evidence of widespread fraud in the election, and that despite all of the anecdotal evidence being presented on these issues, there were no official complaints to the Elections Commission on them. He is clearly unhappy that many of these issues have been known for years, but that nobody seemed to care until Trump lost. He also suggested several changes to be made to Wisconsin election law - 

  1. The elimination of central count facilities, which caused the behavior in vote reporting which has been brought up by many of the Republican lawsuits. Either remove central count, or report by ward as the votes (particularly absentee votes) as the votes are counted.
  2. Changing the indefinitely confined voter law to require a statement of why the voter is confined, and to emphasize that if a voter is no longer indefinitely confined they must report this to  their clerk.
  3. He called for prompt removal of voters who are in the ERIC database rather than doing a mailing every two years. Litigation on this is still pending in court. 
  4. Absentee ballot delivery -  the law is not clear on what "in person" means for requesting ballots and returning them. He believes this law needs to be clarified. "I hope that it gets clarified, but I don't know that it will". He is concerned that the current law encourages ballot harvesting.
  5. Post-election voting machine audits - the law is not clear on how these audits should be conducted or how many of the machines should be audited. In the audit only one type of Dominion machine had issues dealing with creased ballots, but it did not change the outcome of the election. He believes that audit should be done earlier and cover 10% of the voting machines. He also called for some of the audit to be done by an independent auditor.

Tom Sylke has most recently served as an attorney for the Trump campaign during the Wisconsin recount. He called into question the election process in Wisconsin as being susceptible to corruption. He claimed that there needs to be a more diverse group of counters and officials participating in the counting, implying that there were not many Republicans involved in the process. He claimed that the staff in the elections was belligerent and uncooperative and that observers were not able to see the ballots and envelopes. He called into question the rules for how observers were allowed to observe. 

Sylke claimed that there is a need for more transparency in the counting process. He brought up the issue of the poop emoji wristbands that were handed out to participants in Milwaukee one day. 

He continued to complain about the attitude of poll workers and the difficulty of observing the counting process - he called for more legislation to clarify what observers are allowed to see.

Senator Jeff Smith asked members of the committee to put their masks on "So I can have a good Christmas this year". As far as we could determine only one member put their mask on.

Michael Dean is a campaign finance law lawyer who has been involved in the election. He raised the issue that they asked to have all of the ballots scanned to determine if all of the ballots had been requested. He said that the denial of this made him believe the election could not be fair. He claimed that none of the lawsuits have been resolved because they were all dismissed and not heard in court. "The courts are just not equipped to handle the merits of such claims", he said. 

He made complaints that all of the software being used to administer elections is made in China and it's not clear if he meant hardware or software or what. He appeared to be confusing a number of different issues in this testimony and injected issues of foreign interference, but did not bring up particularly cogent arguments other than  the fact that there was a big Biden spike late in the vote counting. Interestingly he is finding issue with the ES&S software rather than the Dominion systems which seem to be the favorite punching bag of the Republican attorneys. 

Ken Dragotta is a manufacturer and an engineer. He has participated in recounts in the past as an observer in the Milwaukee area. "Even when the race was contentious, the polling places were not .. Today this is definitely not the case." 

He listed areas of concern with the former GAB and current WEC. He believes they target any conservative raising issues with them while embracing liberal concerns.  He also raised issues with access to the polls and transparency, including intimidating observers in the polls in Milwaukee. 

He found fault with how curbside voting takes place, claiming that poll workers either ignore or do not understand the legal requirements. Additionally he raised the issues of indefinitely confined voters, and with election-day registration, claiming that many of the registrations are not completed properly at the polls. He also claimed that WEC is encouraging electioneering, including distribution of food or other items during voting and absentee voting to encourage Democratic turnout. 

Issues were also raised by him on the clerks fixing absentee ballot registrations, claiming that this was clearly illegal. 

"The most egregious practice was the acceptance of ballots without a single inspector initial," he said, bringing it up as only one example of illegal practices in the Milwaukee polls. 

Representative Lisa Subeck claimed the hearing is "a sham" because testimony has been cut off after 20 minutes for each speaker including questions. She and several other members are leaving to watch on Wisconsin Eye because they do not feel they are being allowed input.

JoCasta Zamarripa asked that the hearing be ended because questions are not being allowed in many cases and almost all of the invited participants are Republican or conservative.  She also left to watch on Wisconsin Eye. 

Senator Jeff Smith questioned whether this is an investigative hearing and exhibited umbrage that nobody is speaking up to defend the integrity of poll workers, who he called "patriots". Sen. Kathy Bernier stated that in order to get through the testimony they needed to set limits. She stated that she recognizes that most clerks "do the best we can" but that does not mean there are not deficiencies. "I don't feel the need to comment on everything". Smith asked why there is not time to ask questions for most of the witnesses, and that the witnesses are not being asked to take an oath. "You are just giving conjecture and opinion on what you believe is going on". 

Senator Smith objected to wasting time "on conjecture" rather than helping the people who are sick and dying from COVID-19. 

Nathan Pease worked for a delivery company (United Mailing Services) that moved mail throughout the area. For several days preceding the election there were no ballots in his run, and that there was a directive that 100,000 ballots were missing, and that employees were dispatched to find them on Nov. 4. He claims that some USPS employees were asked to back-date ballots that were late. He says some of the employees made jokes about throwing Trump ballots in the trash. He claims that "I know there is something wrong there". 

Senator Bernier asked where these ballots that were backdated went, since legally they needed to be received by election day and could not have been counted anyway. Pease did not have an answer for this.

Phill Kline made an argument that there were no fair elections any place where money came from Mark Zuckerburg. He believes that the truth of words has been devalued, calling out Knudson's testimony that he could not determine the intent of the statute on delivery of absentee ballots. "The deconstruction of words has lead to lawlessness". He went on to say that all of the preventive laws on COVID-19 are unenforceable and that attacks have been made primarily by liberal groups to make claims against election law and to change it without legislative input. He raised many issues with dropboxes and custody of ballots. Note that Kline's law license was suspended indefinitely by the Kansas Supreme Court for "clear and convincing evidence" of violation of 11 rules of professional conduct.

The issue was raised with counsel of whether the legislature can change the electors in the Electoral College. Counsel believes the legislature has no authority to do this, as the legally described actions with the vote have already taken place and the election has been certified. Some of the committee members are taking issue with this. Rep. David Murphy has raised the issue of whether the certification by the WEC was legal because it was only done by the chair. Counsel stated that the certification by the chair was legal. 

Mike Dreyer, a Milwaukee resident, testified that he and his wife had seen poll workers influencing voters to vote for Biden, and that in some cases the eligibility list was not consulted by the poll workers when registering voters at the polls. He also complained about the distance from the poll workers that was required of observers. He claimed that poll workers were often recommending Biden in Spanish with voters, and that some voters were asking poll workers who to vote for. Dreyer also made the claim that Voces de la Frontera members were helping voters to fill out their ballots. 

He also took exception to the group Democracy is Delicious handing out cookies and refreshments to people after they voted and that the group was distributing free lunches to voters from a truck within 100 feet of the door. He additionally testified that he felt it was  a bad practice that voters were wearing masks and could therefore not be identified as matching their ID, and took particular exception to a woman wearing a burqa and dark glasses being given a ballot.  "We felt we were in a hostile environment," Dreyer said. 

Dreyer stated that he did not file a complaint with the District Attorney or the Elections Commission because he has no faith in them.

Bob Spindell is the chair of the 4th CD Republican party, and is a member of the Wisconsin Election Commission. He claims that election fraud is common in US elections. He stated that the evidence from the Trump campaign shows that there has been extensive fraud by Democrats across the country. "Are we supposed to believe really that as intense as this election ... that there is no reasonable doubt that voter fraud did not occur." 

"In the rare instance when someone is caught, nothing will happen. In this case it could be different". "The Dems did everything they could to change the election .... Mail-in voting is much less secure than in-person voting." "I would expect that at least one person in the state of Wisconsin filled out an absentee ballot for someone else". 

He claimed that there were no trucks to move ballots to the Department of Public Works. All ballots were put into SUV's and were followed by police. He claimed the distance between the clerks counting ballots were at least 607 feet. None of the Republican observers could see much, but the Biden observers were trained to taunt the Republican observers, according to Spindell. He stated that in Madison the Democratic observers sat in the back and allowed the Republican observers to sit closer. Spindell in a lot of cases seems to be holding the WEC responsible for lack of accountability, even on those issues on which he voted in favor. 

He brought up the Kanye West debacle when the West representative was found to have arrived too late to file. He seems to be blaming WEC staff for this for not being at the door to open it.  He also brought up some of the other issues that have already been discussed including the indefinitely confined votes and that those who claimed to be indefinitely confined but were not are possibly guilty of committing a felony.  

Bernier says she will ask a question "that is not politically correct. Why are our Democratic colleagues not as concerned with voter fraud?" She suggests that this is because the voter fraud is being committed by Democrats and they do not want to stop it. She asked Spindell if any Democrats had come to him or the commission about concerns about voter fraud. He responded that some Democrats believe that the ends justify the means. "The fraud seems to occur in Democratic cities because that is where the large number of votes are. One of the things Democrats wanted to do is to reduce the safeguards to keep absentee balloting safe". 

Senator Darling asked what can be done to make the Wisconsin Election Commission enforce the law. "We must do something to get rid of these precedents because it gives the staff opportunities to overrule the commission". He seems to be blaming many things on the staff at the WEC because the commission has delegated authority to them. "It seems to me the staff is favorably inclined toward the Democrats".

Bart Williams was an observer at central count in Milwaukee and participated in the recount. He complained that he was not allowed to observe the first 30 minutes of the counting and like many of the other witnesses complained that supervisors made it difficult to observe the counting process. 

Williams claims that WEC member Knudson had testified falsely earlier in the hearing because he and others had filed a complaint with the WEC and Knudson had testified that there were no complaints.  He insists that there should be a full forensic audit of all of the machines, and of all of the express and absentee ballots. He asked that everyone who participated in fraud should be prosecuted "up to the members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission" and asked that all of the electors be assigned to President Trump. 

Alberta Darling states that she does not believe that the legislature is empowered to assign their own electors to Trump or anyone else, though she is concerned that the state election laws are not being followed. Williams again states that they can do this and must do it if their investigation finds fraud.  (Ed. Note - I'm somewhat floored by the fact that there seems to be so much denial of the timeline involved  - I am also a little astounded that they seem to be taking the testimony of a citizen as being as valid as the state counsel's opinion. I am even more astounded that this witness seems to be asking that the legislature consult with Alan Dershowitz because of information in the Epoch Times.)

Another poll observer (Dr. Kramer) made complaints that there were votes re-counted at central count that were not observed by observers, and a number of other anomalies that are less than clear. Many of his objections are ones of hostility on the part of poll workers and Democratic observers, and that the media had called the recount orderly, which he disagrees with. 

There are more citizens who were involved as observers who are testifying.

Ardis Czerny is now testifying and finding fault with the complaint input box on the Wisconsin Elections Commission website because the input box is small. (I will point out that this is an expandable box and can be dragged to be bigger for input - perhaps it should be made bigger by default but it can be enlarged). She also has complained about the wording of the communications to clerks, and that WEC has often bent the law to their own means.  She brought up some of the same visibility issues for observers at Milwaukee central recount and stated that you could tell the Democratic observers because they did not observe, but only complained when Republicans attempted to observe or complain. "All in all the recount was a total waste of time, but it needed to be done". 

She also took exception to the fact that WEC is allowing the spoiling of ballots by mail or email when she states that state law requires that the spoiled ballot be returned to the clerk. Her recommended fixes for the elections is to hold a forensic audit (over the weekend???). She also suggests that they should take all available information from the registration list alert system and re-check them against the registrations to make sure that there were no duplicates, etc. and a number of other checks against the votes. 

An LRB representative testified that the legislature has no authority to change the electors themselves. 

3:30 PM -- the testimony is now down to citizens reporting their experience at poll observing. 

And finally -- there it is - a suggestion that the committee vote to de-certify the electors by Rep. David Murphy. 

Rick Bass is now testifying (the only Republican Milwaukee Election Commission member) starts out by saying that he wishes he had heard some of these complaints at the polls, since he was there and heard none of them at the time. He called out things like the food trucks offering food to voters in minority areas in Milwaukee as a form of inherent racism. He suggests that problems with elections cannot be fixed in a recount, because that is too late. He points out that the recount was live-streamed for anyone who cared to watch. He stated that we need to do our jobs even when the system is under attack. He ended his question period by saying "Of course, I'm partisan and I think we should appoint our own electors". 

Lisa VanWyck ( I hope this name is correct) was a participant as an observer during the recount.  She raised more concerns about the visibility of the process. 

The hearing was ended with testimony from Scott McDonnell, the Dane County Clerk, who objected to much of the previous testimony and stated that the courts this morning ruled that the election was held legally. He stated that although there is always room for improvement, at least in Dane County the elections ran quite smoothly and in accordance with the law and advice from the WEC. In the mids of his testimony the Wisconsin Supreme Court he was alluding to tomorrow in testimony starting at 10 AM.

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