In December, with then-President Donald Trump continuing to falsely claim that massive fraud and voting irregularities caused him to lose the election, Republicans within the Wisconsin Legislature said they were reviewing “thousands of complaints.” Republicans insisted that investigating those complaints would restore faith in the system and legitimize the election for those voters.
However, the Wisconsin State Journal reported last week that thousands of complaints were no more real than claims of voter fraud.
The Wisconsin State Journal report is based on some 10,000 pages of emails received in response to a public-records request for communications pertaining to the election. The majority of the emails were “mass-generated form letters making nonspecific claims about alleged irregularities, a right-wing fraud-finding effort, and a clip from Fox’s Sean Hannity Show,” the Wisconsin State Journal found.
In addition, only 28 of the allegations of election fraud or other irregularities were specific enough to attempt to verify, and the Wisconsin State Journal could only partially substantiate one, involving 42 votes. Interviews with dozens of prosecutors, election officials and people who lodged complaints made clear that most, if not all, of the allegations could be chalked up to hearsay or minor administrative errors.
Rep. Ron Tusler (R-Appleton) told the Wisconsin State Journal that the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, which he chaired last session, has so far been able to substantiate only one case of potential voter fraud during the Nov. 3 election, involving a Cedarburg woman charged with submitting an absentee ballot for her dead partner.
Senate Votes to Repeal Statewide Mask Mandate
The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate voted Tuesday to repeal Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate by an 18-13 vote, with all Democrats and Republican Sens. Dale Kooyenga (Brookfield) and Robert Cowles (Allouez) against.
Door County’s senator, André Jacque (R-Bellevue), was one of nine senators who cosponsored the joint resolution authored by Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater).
The resolution, SJR3, states that the public-health emergency declared by the governor Jan. 19 in response to COVID-19 was unlawful. Republicans argued that Evers overstepped his authority by issuing repeat emergency health orders instead of going through the Legislature. Evers’ first mask mandate was issued July 30, 2020, and the latest one extended to at least March 20, 2021.
“At its core, the vote on SJR 3 is not about masks,” Jacque said, “although Gov. Evers’ mask mandate was issued pursuant to a declaration of emergency authority that goes well beyond what he is lawfully allowed. A thorough summary of the rationale for SJR3 is laid out within the ‘whereas’ clauses of its text, and you’ll notice that mask policy is included nowhere in the resolution.”
Sen. Cowles, who voted with Democrats in opposition to the resolution, read the names of 16 Republican governors who had all designed and imposed mask mandates in their states.
“Why? It’s because they listened to health care providers and the families of residents who’ve been impacted by COVID-19 in their respective states, and it’s because they listened to the science of how masks can slow the spread,” Cowles said in a statement following the vote.
Both legislative chambers must pass the resolution to undo the mask requirement. The Assembly, controlled 58-30 by Republicans, scheduled it for a vote Thursday, Jan. 28, after the deadline for this issue of the Peninsula Pulse.
Evers’ mask mandate is also being challenged in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which heard arguments in November and could issue a ruling soon.
COVID-19 Relief Package Still Hung Up
The Assembly on Tuesday passed an expanded COVID-19 response bill that may face a veto by Gov. Evers. The bill would prohibit the closure of churches during the pandemic and bar employers from requiring workers to get vaccinated for the disease.
The Senate previously removed those provisions form a more limited COVID-19 bill that it passed and that the governor supports.
The Assembly’s expanded bill passed 58-34, with all Republicans in support and Democrats against. It now heads back to the Senate.