Witnesses at Wisconsin election hearing say officials violated state election laws, intimidated recount observers


The Wisconsin legislature’s hearing Friday on the 2020 election included witnesses who testified that state and local election officials in Madison and Milwaukee willfully violated state law to maximize the number of votes for Democrat Joe Biden.

Ken Dragotta, president of Systems Engineering & Automation Corp and a longtime election observer, said observers representing the Trump campaign at the recount in Milwaukee were “embarrassed and ridiculed” by election workers when they pointed out deficiencies, and said state law “is being used as a tool by clerks and chief election inspectors to inhibit transparency and to intimidate observers.

“My takeaway from the early days is this,” he said. “Even when the race was contentious, the polling places were not, and the election officials were accurate and complete in their work. Today, this definitely is not the case.”

Some of the elections processes, he said, are now conducted “by lawless groups of individuals and officials that have gone from exploiting our election laws to now openly disregarding them.”

Dragotta named the Government Accountability Board and its successor agency, the Wisconsin Elections Commission, and also local and county election commissions and clerks, saying some of them “openly usurp and ignore state statutes.”

Dragotta said the state law governing observation of elections and recounts was violated in Milwaukee, with observers required to remain more than 10 feet from the people counting the ballots, making it impossible for them to see. If they stood up, they had to stand behind chairs, which were placed behind a yellow line, he said in describing the scene. If they stepped one foot to the right or left, they were required to carry their chair with them, remaining behind it.

“The most egregious and offensive practice,” he said, “was that of accepting ballots that were without a single election official or inspector initial. As far as my election experience is concerned, a ballot without initials is a dead ballot and should not be counted.

“Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of such ballots were counted and included in the election results,” he said.

Dragotta also referred to a public records request for emails he’d submitted to the Government Accountability Board. He said it was clear from the information he received from this request that the staff, many of whom now work for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, are “partisan” and disregard complaints from conservatives, while targeting them as individuals.

The hearing was held before the joint Assembly and Senate committees on Campaigns & Elections, with some members of the legislature attending in person and others virtually.

Several Democratic members of the legislature complained about the selection of witnesses, with some saying the staff of the Wisconsin Elections Commission should have been called to testify. Others complained that they hadn’t had enough of an opportunity to question witnesses. Several announced that they were leaving the hearing and would watch it online instead.

Another witness, a Republican attorney named Michael Dean, told of his experience at the recount in Madison, in Dane County.

He said 30 minutes after the recount started, he asked the county clerk, Scott McDonell, to see the absentee ballot applications, as Wisconsin law is clear that an application is required for an absentee ballot.

He said McDonell at first agreed, but changed his mind after the Democrat attorney got involved.

“Mr. McDonnel, unsurprisingly, voted with the Democrat member of the canvassing team,” he said, “and came to, I assure you, the ridiculous conclusion that the ballot application was not the piece of paper that says ballot application on it, that is created and disseminated by the Wisconsin Elections Commission; it was instead the envelope in which the ballot was returned.”

“From that point on,” he said, “I had no confidence whatever that any election official was even remotely attempting to enforce Wisconsin’s elections laws with any degree of integrity. My skepticism – which is an occupational requirement – turned to, I will confess, cynicism about the integrity of our election process.”

Dean told legislators that he was interested in systemic issues and had been recruited as a local counsel to work on two election cases in Wisconsin on behalf of Republicans.

“The courts haven’t resolved anything because they’ve been all resolved on motions to dismiss, on legal issues,” he said. “They have never even held an evidentiary hearing or even remotely assessed the credibility of the evidence which was submitted.”

He said he’s realized that no relief for any injustices can be obtained in the courts.

“The suits have all been dismissed on the grounds that you can’t plead your case without evidence, and you can’t get evidence unless you plead your case. Good-bye,” he said.

He urged the legislature to proceed with an investigation into the election that looks at evidence, not soundbites, referring to a soundbite about disenfranchising voters.

“We only want to eliminate the votes of people who cast them unlawfully,” he said. “And the question before this committee and every individual in Wisconsin who has any degree of integrity simply wants to ensure: Are we here going to disenfranchise the lawful voters, Democratic and Republican, who did obey the law by allowing the unlawful voters to have an influence which they should not have had?”

At the same time as the legislative hearing was taking place in Madison, a judge in Milwaukee was hearing the Trump campaign’s case, which had originally been filed in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The claims in the lawsuit mirror many of the claims of witnesses at the legislative hearing – that numerous state laws were violated in the processing of absentee ballots. The judge denied the claim, however, saying the election was properly conducted. The Trump campaign has appealed the ruling to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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