The Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol subpoenaed two Wisconsin Republicans — former state Republican leader Andrew Hitt and chairwoman Kelly Ruh — this year for their role in falsifying electoral paperwork during the 2020 election.
Kelly Ruh, the chairwoman of the 8th congressional district GOP, and former chairman Andrew Hitt were part of a group of 10 Wisconsin Republicans who met in the state Capitol on Dec. 14 to create fake electoral paperwork claiming former president Donald Trump won the state of Wisconsin’s 10 votes, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The fake electoral ballots were sent to the Senate, the National Archives, a federal judge and Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette, according to the Journal Sentinel.
“I looked at [the fake ballots] and I said, ‘What’s this?’” La Follette said in an interview with The Badger Herald. “I was surprised, and I said, ‘Well, this is nonsense,’ and I just put it away. I kind of forgot about it until recently, when it’s become a major discussion in the news for at least seven different states.”
The watchdog organization American Oversight requested and obtained access to all 2020 electoral certificates that were not already publicly available after reports from the Trump administration warned of a plan to influence election results. This investigation revealed fake electoral paperwork from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The Sentinel reported Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed Hitt and Ruh along with 12 individuals from the six other states.
“We believe the individuals we have subpoenaed today have information about how these so-called alternate electors met and who was behind that scheme,” Select Committee Chairperson Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement. “We encourage them to cooperate with the Select Committee’s investigation to get answers about January 6th for the American people and help ensure nothing like that day ever happens again.”
The falsified ballots were part of a large, organized conspiracy of election interference, according to UW political science professor Howard Schweber.
“These fake ballots were supposed to confuse Congress to the point where they wouldn’t know what was the true official outcome, and therefore be persuaded that the question was in doubt,” Schweber said. “They’re part of a larger fraud, which was an attempt to create a fake controversy sufficient to overturn the outcome of the election.”
After the falsified paperwork went public, a memo from former President Trump’s lawyer John Eastman was released by the Washington Post. The memo described a six-step plan for former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the real election results and keep Trump in the White House.
The key role Wisconsin Republicans would play was detailed in Eastman’s memo, Schweber explained.
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“The Republicans in the Wisconsin State legislature are really extremely to the right,” Schweber said. “[They use] a brand of corrupt hardball politics that makes them likely candidates to participate in almost any scheme to overturn an electoral result.”
A complaint regarding the falsified electoral papers was filed by Law Forward Attorneys Mel Barnes and Jeff Mandell to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, a body designed to oversee the election process.
Almost a year later, the commission is still considering the complaint without taking action. Some speculate that the commission’s investigation progress was halted by Robert Spinell, a participant in the Dec. 14 meeting who refused to step down from the commission, according to the Journal Sentinel.
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La Follette said he believes a return to an apolitical electoral system is the best way for Wisconsin to move forward. This would include replacing the bipartisan Election Commission with the election board that preceded it, which was made up of five retired judges. As for preventing electoral fraud of this nature from happening again, La Follette said he does not believe changes must be made.
“What happened was exactly what should have happened,” La Follette said. “The Democratic electors were approved and sent, and the Republican electors were ignored by me and everybody else. And that’s what should happen, because they were not legitimate.”
Along with select Republican party members’ willingness to collude, Wisconsin’s role as a swing state makes it a natural battleground for electoral votes, UW political science professor Barry Burden said.
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The inherent ambiguity of the electoral voting process also makes it susceptible to corruption since the process for counting electoral votes is not rigidly defined and even contradictory in certain areas, Burden said.
Both Schweber and Burden agreed this level of election interference would be unfathomable from a pre-Trump GOP. Despite his loss in 2020, Trump still has a strong influence over the Republican party, Burden and Schweber said.
“Wisconsin politics over the last 20 years has simply become profoundly corrupt,” Schweber said. “I think the comment that anyone who is in the political science business would make is that all of this was unimaginable five years ago. It’s astonishing to see how far the democratic process in our country has degraded in a very short period of time.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 21 to reflect a change in the author. The story was falsely credited to Ben Cadigan when it should have been credited to Ella Ceelen.