It’s been a year of baseless investigations, attempted voter restrictions, and lies following Trump’s loss.
Wisconsin Republicans have put a pretty big focus on undermining the public’s faith in elections over the last year. They’ve taken so many actions to do so that it’s almost hard to remember them all.
That’s right, the Badger State’s federal and state lawmakers fell right in line with former President Donald Trump after he began spreading the Big Lie that widespread fraud led to his loss to Joe Biden in 2020.
What followed the election has been a near-constant drumbeat of baseless investigations, efforts to make voting harder, and even calls for the prosecution of election officials.
Here’s a (non-exhaustive) timeline of what’s gone on:
- Nov. 4, 2020: Biden is declared the winner of Wisconsin.
- Nov. 7, 2020: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) orders a baseless investigation into non-existent “irregularities” after Trump starts the Big Lie.
- Nov. 11, 2020: State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) says Wisconsin’s electors should be forced to vote for Trump even though he lost.
- Nov. 30, 2020: Ann Jacobs, Democratic chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, certifies Biden’s win.
- Dec. 11, 2020: Republican lawmakers hold a hearing about the false accusations of “irregularities.” Rather than hear from election experts, they invite testimony from partisan actors such as conservative talk show host Dan O’Donnell and disgraced former Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline.
- Dec. 14, 2020: Wisconsin’s electors cast their votes for Biden, even as the Wisconsin Republican Party appoints its own group “to preserve legal options” in case Biden’s victory is overturned.
- Jan. 6, 2021: As Congress works to certify the election results, pro-Trump insurrectionists storm the US Capitol. Even after the harrowing day, US Reps. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) join fellow Republicans in voting to reject certified results from two states.
- Feb. 11, 2021: Republican lawmakers order a nonpartisan audit of the election. (The audit finds no widespread fraud.)
- Feb. 24, 2021: Republican lawmakers start introducing a series of 11 bills that would make it harder to vote, especially for indefinitely confined and disabled people, in addition to heavily restricting the use of ballot drop boxes. (Six of these bills eventually pass and are vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers.)
- May 26, 2021: Vos launches another investigation using taxpayer funds to hire retired police officers, who later quit.
- June 15, 2021: Upon returning from a visit to Arizona’s widely discredited, Republican-ordered election audit, state Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) tells WisPolitics she wants a similar audit in Wisconsin. She visited the site with three other Republican lawmakers: Reps. Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego), Rachael Cabral-Guevara (R-Appleton), and Dave Murphy (R-Greenville).
- June 25, 2021: Trump issues a statement blasting Vos, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), and Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) for “working hard to cover up election corruption.”
- June 26, 2021: Vos announces he has hired retired Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, a conservative who falsely claimed the election was stolen, to lead the inquiry partisan he launched in May.
- July 30, 2021: Vos expands the Gableman investigation. Three weeks later, it’s revealed Vos has given Gableman a $680,000 taxpayer-funded budget as part of the expansion.
- Aug. 12, 2021: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Gableman, state Rep. Timothy Ramthun (R-Campbellsport), and Republican Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Bob Spindell traveled to South Dakota for a three-day symposium hosted by prominent far-right conspiracy theorist and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
- Aug. 22, 2021: Vos announces he met with Trump in Alabama and has promised to keep the former president “updated on our investigation.”
- Oct. 28, 2021: Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, a Republican, calls for felony charges against five of six members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission for guidance they issued that helped people in nursing homes vote absentee during the pandemic.
- Nov. 10, 2021: US Sen. Ron Johnson tells Republican lawmakers they should take control of federal election administration in Wisconsin.
- Nov. 17, 2021: Ramthun introduces a resolution to “decertify” the 2020 election, which is not legally possible.
- Nov. 29, 2021: In a court filing, Gableman threatens to put the mayors of Madison and Green Bay in jail if they don’t agree to closed-door interviews with him as he investigates baseless claims about grant funding given to more than 200 Wisconsin municipalities.
- Dec. 13, 2021: State Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), head of the Senate elections committee and a former county clerk, calls for an end to the Gableman investigation and pleads with her fellow Republicans to stop “undermining our republic.”
- Dec. 14, 2021: Vos tells the Associated Press Gableman’s investigation will be expanded again. It’s now set to go into 2022 and cost even more.