Election Reform a Top Issue in Wisconsin Governor, Senate Races
Democrats and the legacy media call it the “Big Lie.”
Former president Donald Trump, “America First” advocates, and select conservative media columnists call it the “Steal.”
Opinions on the subject vary, but one point is certain—the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, and the topic of election integrity, are widely discussed issues as the midterm races reach their final stretch.
This is especially true in Wisconsin.
A Sept. 22 poll from Marquette Law School in Wisconsin illustrates how divided the election integrity topic is between the two parties.
Among likely voters surveyed, 86 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans are “very confident” that votes in Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election were accurately cast and counted.
Those figures include independent voters who lean Democratic and Republican.
The poll also revealed that 62 percent of Republicans were not too confident or not confident at all in the results of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election while 6 percent of Democrats feel that way.
Republican Robin Vos is Wisconsin’s general assembly speaker. He has raised questions about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, but he has refused to decertify the results. Vos won a closely contested Republican primary on Aug. 9 over Trump-endorsed Adam Steen.
In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court banned the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in the state. Only the voter can return a ballot in person, the conservative-led body determined.
A federal judge later ruled that voters with disabilities are allowed third-party assistance for mailing ballots or delivering them to a clerk.
Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels and incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson believe in election reform.
Neither candidate will commit to accepting the outcome of their elections when results are certified. Their opponents, incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, have said they will accept the Nov. 8 results, win or lose.
Michels would accept the election results “provided the election is conducted fairly and securely,” a spokesperson recently said.
When asked if Johnson would concede if he loses on Nov. 8, Johnson campaign spokesperson Alec Zimmerman said, “It is certainly his hope that he can.”
“He would feel much better about the 2022 election had Governor Evers signed bills the legislature passed to restore confidence in our election system,” Zimmerman added. “That said, we are doing everything we can to ensure guidances and election procedures comply with state law. We will be monitoring everything closely.”
Wisconsin’s Republican-led state legislature said it wanted to restore confidence in the state’s elections, which is why it has passed several voting bills in 2022.
In 2021, the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau announced it did not uncover evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election but it did issue multiple recommendations for improvements.
Evers vetoed all of them and added that he wouldn’t sign any measure that he believes would make voting more difficult.
One veto bill would have authorized the Republican-controlled budget committee to enforce staffing cuts or decrease funding at state agencies if the committee determined the departments did not follow election laws.
He also refused to sign a measure that would have required the Elections Commission to first provide any guidance sent to elections officials to the legislature’s rules committee.
In most cases, citizens who can’t visit the polls to request absentee ballots can do that without submitting a photo ID. The legislature passed a bill that would have limited who could claim “indefinitely confined” status. Evers rejected the measure.
The legislature passed a bill that would have prevented election clerks from filling in missing details on absentee ballot envelopes and banned any person other than a voter, designated individual, guardian, or immediate family member to return an absentee ballot. Evers vetoed that measure, too.
In early October, a Waukesha County judge ruled that the elections commission wasn’t permitted to allow clerks to fill in missing information on the envelopes. The agency has instructed clerks they can’t correct mistakes on absentee ballot witness certificates.
“All Wisconsinites would feel more confident in the process had Tony Evers signed the numerous election integrity bills sent to his desk, but provided the election is conducted fairly and securely thanks to the historic efforts to ensure election integrity this cycle, we’ll accept the outcome,” Michels spokesperson Anna Kelly told Madison.com.
The 60-year-old Michels is co-owner of Michels Corp., an energy and infrastructure contracting business that is regarded as one of the world’s top petroleum contractors.
He entered the Republican primary in the later stages and defeated main challenger Rebecca Kleefisch in the Republican primary with a boost from Trump’s endorsement.
Michels said he would consider decertifiying the 2020 presidential elections results if he is elected. He also believes that the Wisconsin Elections Commission should be banned and that all rules the commission establishes for local commissions to administer elections should be eliminated.
If he defeats Evers on Nov. 8, Michels said he will work with the state legislature to repair the “big problems” from 2020, referencing the use of ballot drop boxes and private grant funding to spearhead elections.
“No one knows what the extent of the election fraud was and that’s the problem,” Michels told the Wisconsin State Journal.
“A lot of people have questions about the 2020 election, as do I. Here’s what is very concerning to me, we are 18 months now from the 2020 election. And we’re still having a conversation here in Wisconsin, here in America, about the election in 2020. That is absolutely insane,” Michels continued.
“We are not a Third World country. We are not a banana republic. This is the United States of America. People should not have questions about the integrity, the transparency, and the honesty of an election.”
Earlier this year, Johnson was behind in the polls, but he has surged in recent months.
In August, Johnson trailed Barnes by 7 points in a Marquette Law School poll. On Sept. 14, Marquette released a new survey showing that Johnson has taken a 49 percent to 48 percent lead over Barnes.
An AARP survey showed that Johnson leads Barnes 51 percent to 46 percent. The survey, which was conducted from Sept. 18 to Sept. 25 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, also discovered that Johnson has a 10-point advantage over Barnes among likely independent voters.
Johnson leads Barnes by 1 percentage point—49 percent to 48 percent—according to a CBS News-YouGov poll conducted last week.
The up-to-date FiveThirtyEight forecast shows that Johnson has a 66 percent likely chance of defeating Barnes. In late September, the figure was 51 percent.
Michels leads Evers, 50 percent to 47 percent, according to the same poll. And carries a 7-point edge over Barnes among likely independent voters.
Crime and abortion are hot-button topics in both races, but election reform remains a prominent subject in the state.
On Oct. 5, Waukesha County Circuit Judge Brad Schimel ruled that Wisconsin voters can’t cancel their ballot and cast a new one once a vote has been cast.
Schimel granted a request for a temporary injunction against the practice, which is known as ballot spoiling and was encouraged by the Wisconsin Elections Commission at offices throughout the state.
Wisconsin voter Nancy Kormanik sued the WEC over its guidance that says clerks can give completed and submitted absentee ballots to voters. Doing so, the lawsuit argued, violates a Wisconsin law that states that the clerk “shall not return the ballot to the elector” once submitted.
The guidance was issued after multiple candidates dropped out of high-profile races, including Democrat candidates for the U.S. Senate.
A Republican and a former Wisconsin attorney general, Schimel sided with Kormanik and ordered an injunction effective Oct. 7.
Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections is representing Kormanik.
“Today’s ruling is another major victory for Wisconsin voters. WEC’s unlawful guidance destroys voter confidence and taints the integrity of Wisconsin’s elections. Once a vote is cast, it is cast. Period,” Derek Lyons, president and CEO of Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections, said in a statement.
The Democratic National Committee sides with the WEC.
“We disagree with this decision to restrict voting access in Wisconsin, particularly as voters in the state have already begun to cast their ballots,” a committee spokeswoman told media outlets in a statement.