Two prominent Wisconsin Republicans have pushed back this week on continued claims of widespread voter fraud or wrongdoing during Wisconsin’s 2020 election, even as the state moves forward with additional investigations into how the election was administered.
A recording surfaced Monday on Twitter of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson saying there is "nothing obviously skewed about the results" of the election. In the recording, which was made without the senator's knowledge, Johnson was speaking with a woman posing as a conservative voter at an event in Wauwatosa.
"The only reason Trump lost Wisconsin is 51,000 Republican voters didn’t vote for him," Johnson said. "If all the Republicans voted for Trump the way they voted for (state) Assembly candidates, he would have won. He didn’t get 51,000 votes other Republicans got — that’s why he lost."
In another recording posted by the same woman, Johnson said he continues to support ongoing audits of the 2020 election, though he disagrees with some fellow Republicans on what the investigations should focus on.
"The last thing I’d really focus on would be the machines, because we have paper ballots," Johnson said.
Johnson said investigators should instead focus on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, ballot collection events like those held in Madison, information added to ballot envelopes by election officials, private grants to help Wisconsin communities with election administration and Milwaukee’s central count voting location, which processed the city’s absentee ballots until the wee hours of the morning following Election Day.
"I really do think there’s too much concentration on the machines," he said.
Johnson’s comments came just days before the Associated Press reported $325,000 of a $676,000 contract for an ongoing election investigation called by the leader of the state Assembly will go toward hiring a data analysis contractor.
Johnson wasn’t alone this week in his pushback and criticism of some GOP-backed election investigation efforts. In a rare interview on Monday, former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told Milwaukee’s WISN-TV President Joe Biden clearly won the presidential election over President Donald Trump.
"It was not rigged, it was not stolen, Donald Trump lost the election, Joe Biden won the election, it’s really clear," Ryan said in the interview.
Ryan said there may be "mischief" and "shenanigans" in elections, as well as some fraud, but nothing "organized to the extent that it would have swung the electoral college and the presidential election."
In addition to the election audit called by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau is conducting an investigation called by the GOP-controlled Legislature. Other pending investigations include an effort led by Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, and a group of private citizens.
Previous required state audits, a partial recount and numerous lawsuits failed to uncover any evidence of widespread fraud or wrongdoing in the election. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, local clerks in Wisconsin referred just 13 allegations of suspected fraud in the November 2020 election to district attorneys. Nearly 3.3 million votes were cast in the state.
Republicans have attempted to make several changes to voting laws in the state since November, but those efforts have been vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers.
Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes — a margin similar to several other razor-thin statewide elections in recent years.