Gableman report claims lawmakers could decertify the 2020 election, receives swift backlash from both parties
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Republican attorney hired to investigate the 2020 election suggested lawmakers could decertify the presidential election, an effort legal experts said is impossible.
Former State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman said the state Legislature should consider rescinding Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes for Joe Biden when testifying about his 136-page interim report that details findings from his taxpayer-funded review.
"I believe the Legislature ought to take a very hard look at the option of decertification," Gableman said while testifying to the Assembly Elections Committee on Tuesday. "It appears to me there is significant ground to do that."
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who hired Gableman with a $676,000 taxpayer budget for his review, has dismissed efforts to decertify the 2020 presidential election. It's also a move nonpartisan attorneys have said is legally impossible.
When testifying, Gableman claimed there's a legal path to revoke the state's 10 electoral votes but added it's not his decision to make. His report highlighting the certification process also said it would not "change who the current President is."
Backlash from both parties
Gableman's comments were met with swift backlash from Democrats and Republicans.
In a series of tweets, outgoing Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna), who decided not to seek reelection, said he will reject any effort to overturn the election and encouraged people to move on.
"In my remaining time, I can guarantee that I will not be part of any effort, and will do everything possible to stop any effort, to put politicians in charge of deciding who wins or loses elections," Steineke said.
Steineke added the move to decertify is "not legal under Wisconsin law…fool's errand. Focus on the future."
In his report, Gableman claims the state Legislature could decertify the 2020 election.— Emilee Fannon (@Emilee_Fannon) March 1, 2022
Top Republican's have said their attorney's advised them that not legally possible.@jimsteineke tweeted: "Still not legal under Wisconsin law...Focus on the future." https://t.co/cEHU2RTNXg
Still not legal under Wisconsin law. Beyond that, it would have no practical impact b/c there is no Constitutional way to remove a sitting president other than through impeachment or incapacity. Fools errand. Focus on the future. https://t.co/uaaJevrjc5— Jim Steineke ?? (@jimsteineke) March 1, 2022
Legal challenges, recounts, and reviews of the 2020 election have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud and confirm Joe Biden won by about 21,000 votes in Wisconsin.
Democrats also criticized Gableman for detailing how to challenge the certification process.
"We've heard over and over again from our lawyers in the Capitol we can't decertify, there's no way of doing it," said State Rep. Jodi Emerson, a Democrat who serves on the elections committee.
In a statement, Governor Tony Evers called Gableman's investigation a "circus" and a waste of taxpayer funds.
“This circus has long surpassed being a mere embarrassment for our state," Evers said. "From the beginning, it has never been a serious or functioning effort, it has lacked public accountability and transparency, and it has been a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars."
Attorney General Josh Kaul, who's challenging Gableman's subpoenas demanding city officials testify in private for his investigation, said the report is an attack on democracy.
“The Vos-Gableman investigation will long be remembered as a shameful, deeply embarrassing episode for our state Legislature," Kaul said in a statement. "The Republicans in the Legislature who are responsible for this train wreck have an obligation to our democracy to condemn and end this preposterous fake investigation.”
The idea of decertifying the election in Wisconsin has been rejected by GOP leaders.
State Rep. Timothy Ramthun, a Republican candidate for governor, tried to force the Legislature to vote on his resolution to overturn the 2020 election, but was shut down by Assembly Republicans.
Ramthun has been praised by conspiracy theorists and former President Donald Trump for his failed attempt. He joins former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Kevin Nicholson who are also running on an election integrity platform in hopes to defeat Evers in the fall.
A majority of Gableman's report focuses on private election grants distributed to Wisconsin's five largest cities by the group Center for Tech and Civic Life, funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg and his wife.
Gableman called the grants "illegal bribery," arguing they resulted in boosting voter turnout in largely Democratic-leaning cities.
His report also contended sending absentee ballots to nursing homes instead of special voting deputies was illegal and led to incompetent residents voting.
During the pandemic, the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission issued guidance telling clerks to mail absentee ballots to nursing homes to allow residents the right to vote when facilities were closed to the public.
While testifying, Gableman played videos of nursing home residents who were joined by family members who said they were not competent to cast a ballot in the 2020 election.
Gableman also recommended dismantling WEC, a move that Speaker Vos doesn't support.
"The Wisconsin Elections Commission unlawfully directed clerks to violate rules that are in place to protect nursing home residents," Gableman said.
When it comes to absentee ballot drop boxes, Gableman also suggested they are illegal. State law does define drop boxes, which is why the issue is being debated in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The high court has not made a final decision whether they can be used in future elections.
The state’s top election official, Meagan Wolfe, said in a statement nearly every concern brought forth by Gableman has already been litigated or examined.
“The opinions in the Special Counsel’s latest interim report were fixated on topics that have been thoroughly addressed,” said Administrator Meagan Wolfe. “The integrity of the November 2020 election, and of the WEC, has been shown time and time again through court cases and previous investigations.”
Election Review Likely to Continue
After nine months of work, Gableman said his investigation will continue even though it remains unclear whether he has a signed contract to do so.
Gableman did not provide a clear answer whether Vos renewed his contract, which expired in December, but suggested his work is far from over.
"This meeting is part of an ongoing discussion that will not end today," Gableman said. "This will not end. This is an important topic and there's a lot of work to do."
A spokeswoman for Vos did not respond to questions if there's a signed agreement for Gableman to continue his work which began in October. Instead, Vos praised Gableman's efforts in a statement.
"I’d like to thank the Office of Special Counsel for their tireless efforts in finding the truth," Vos said. "They’ve done a good job at showing there were issues in 2020, and the report is intended to help correct these processes for future elections."
Vos has said the investigation could last longer because of ongoing litigation challenging Gableman's subpoenas. The total number of subpoenas issued by Gableman is 90, according to his report. However, only a handful of those have been made public.
Attorney General Kaul is fighting in court to block a round of subpoenas that demand WEC administrator Meagan Wolfe meet for a private interview.
Gableman argues his contract, signed by Vos, allows him to issue subpoenas for his investigation.
Read the full report here: