Rep. Robin Vos, Wisconsin’s state assembly speaker, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the investigators would spend three months probing tips about election problems or voter fraud and pursuing the most credible ones.
“A sizable chunk of people believe the election was illegitimate,” Vos told the Journal Sentinel. “And democracy cannot flourish if both sides don’t believe in the end both sides had a fair shot.”
Yet Vos also acknowledged that Biden won his race in Wisconsin and said he does not anticipate the taxpayer-funded inquiry will lead to changes in the election results. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post on Wednesday evening.
Earlier this week, the state’s Elections Commission released a report identifying fewer than three dozen possible cases of fraud among the 3.3 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party accused Vos of wasting money to investigate baseless claims.
“Wisconsin Republicans won’t fund healthcare, schools, or infrastructure … but they will authorize unlimited funds to desperately prove conspiracy theories about the 2020 election,” the party said in a tweet late Wednesday.
By authorizing the probe, Vos joins GOP leaders in a number of swing states who have raised questions about the security of the 2020 election, despite no evidence of significant irregularities and very few instances of voter fraud.
Last week in Georgia, a judge granted a group of voters’ request to inspect copies of 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in Fulton County as part of a lawsuit alleging officials accepted thousands of counterfeit votes last year. Republicans in Arizona have pressed forward with an audit conducted by a private company whose owner has echoed false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Local officials in states including Michigan and New Hampshire have also pressed for inquiries into the 2020 election results.
All of those efforts have come after lawsuits brought by former president Donald Trump’s campaign and other Republicans in a number of states failed to show evidence of widespread fraud. Those lawsuits were rejected by dozens of judges across the country.
Yet unfounded claims that the 2020 election was marred by fraud have continued to spread. Trump has repeatedly and persistently said the election was stolen. Many Republicans have declined to criticize Trump’s rhetoric, and those who have denounced his claims, like Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), have faced political backlash from within the party.
In Wisconsin, the state’s Elections Commission released a report on Monday that found few cases of potential fraud, including possible double voting, felons who may have illegally voted, and ballots cast by people who may have previously been judged incompetent. Those possible irregularities have been forwarded on to district attorneys to investigate further.
In February, Wisconsin Republicans also ordered a separate audit of the state’s election results to be conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, the Journal Sentinel reported. The investigation Vos detailed on Wednesday would be independent of that probe.
Vos told the Journal Sentinel the newly hired investigators would produce a report by fall that would identify laws that may need to be changed to prevent voter fraud in future elections. He suggested that the probe was necessary, despite prior reviews, because Democrats had not sufficiently scrutinized the election results. (Wisconsin’s governor and secretary of state are both Democrats.)
“Is there a whole lot of smoke or is there actual fire?” Vos told the newspaper. “We just don’t know yet.”
Ann Jacobs, a Democrat who leads the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told the Journal Sentinel that Vos’s investigation would be a waste of state resources because the election results had “already been thoroughly investigated.”
But other Republicans are on board with the plan to continue searching for evidence of fraud.
“We need this!” state Rep. Ron Tusler (R) said in a tweet Wednesday night. “Real investigators conducting a non-partisan investigation into the 2020 election fraud accusations!”
Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.