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Judge orders GOP-backed election investigation records to be released

Dane County judge orders Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to make documents public

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, at podium, surrounded by fellow Republican lawmakers, unveils a Republican K-12 funding plan that calls for increasing spending less than half as much as Democratic Gov. Tony Evers wanted on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at the Capitol in Madison. Scott Bauer/AP Photo 

A Dane County judge has ordered the leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly to release records related to a Republican-backed investigation of the 2020 election in Wisconsin.

Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ordered Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, on Friday to immediately release records about the investigation previously requested by American Oversight, a national nonprofit group that, according to its website, “uses public records requests backed by litigation to fight corruption, drive accountability, and defend democracy.”

The judge’s order said Vos has “unjustifiably withheld and refused to release the contractor records to which Petitioner is entitled.” If Vos refuses to immediately release the documents, the order calls on him to appear in court on Nov. 5.

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In a prepared statement, Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, lauded the court’s action.

“Wisconsin has a right to know how this taxpayer-funded investigation is being orchestrated,” Evers said.

Vos could appeal the decision. His office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The election investigation at issue is being led by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. Vos announced Gableman as the head of the inquiry this summer. Since then, the taxpayer-funded effort, which has an initial budget of $680,000, has issued subpoenas to local election officials and the mayors of Wisconsin’s five largest cities.

On Friday, investigators backtracked on the latest set of subpoenas following pushback about the scope and feasibility.

Previous routine state audits, recounts in the state’s two largest counties and several lawsuits have failed to uncover any significant fraud or wrongdoing in the 2020 election.

President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes — a margin similar to several other razor-thin statewide elections in recent years.