The Madison city clerk responded to a subpoena in the election investigation, saying that allowing auditors to physically handle the election records could potentially be breaking federal law. Maribeth Witzel-Behl is one of several city clerks and election officials served a subpoena in an ongoing election investigation by Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice.
The subpoena is signed by Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), and committee chair Senator Kathleen Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls). The data request asks that the city of Madison provide all “physical absentee ballot certificates for the November 2020 General Election and the results of tests on electronic voting machines used for the election.”
Senator LeMahieu did not respond to The Wisconsin Daily Star’s request for comment regarding the situation, asking if they will be pursuing anything further and asking if they agree with the grounds of the response from the city clerk. Senator Kapenga’s office refused to comment, telling The Daily Star that he is not commenting on the issue at this time.
Senator Bernier’s Chief of Staff Michael Luckey told The Daily Star that “Sen. Bernier is encouraged that the City of Madison is willing to work with the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) to comply with the law, as the other 29 of 30 municipalities did. She believes that the City of Madison should have pursued these alternatives before subpoenas were needed, but again, she is pleased that they understand the law requires them to provide access to the documents in the reasonable manner that LAB requests.”
Luckey went on to say, “So long as Madison complies with the LAB auditors and the auditors do not discover anything out of the ordinary, it appears unlikely that future actions will be needed for this specific investigation.”
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway offered a little more insight into the clerk’s statement, saying that if the clerk does not maintain control of the documents there could be “potential criminal penalties for intentionally violating that duty.” The mayor reportedly said, “Federal and state laws require that our Clerk maintain control over these documents, and those laws carry potential criminal penalties for intentionally violating that duty. We believe the Legislature should listen to their own attorneys, who concluded that this was an accurate interpretation of the law. We do not intend to violate the law simply because Senator Kapenga demands that we do so.”
Rhodes-Conway said, “As we have already communicated to the Legislative Audit Bureau, they are welcome to examine copies of election records and can have access to all of the information that is on the original documents requested. All they have to do is take a three minute walk to our Clerk’s office.”
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Hayley Feland is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun and The Wisconsin Daily Star | Star News Network. Follow Hayley on Twitter or like her Facebook page. Send news tips to [email protected].
Photo “Maribeth Witzel-Behl” by City of Madison Wisconsin.