Wisconsin’s Baseless Investigation of the 2020 Election

Wisconsin has joined a growing list of states where allies of former President Trump have launched bogus “investigations” as part of an effort to cast doubt on the 2020 election results and perpetuate the big lie that the election was somehow stolen.

On May 26, 2021, more than six months after the 2020 presidential election, Wisconsin’s top Republican lawmaker announced that he would be hiring three retired police officers and an attorney to conduct a new investigation of the election results.

The announcement by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos made Wisconsin the third state in recent months — following Arizona’s ongoing and widely discredited “audit” of votes cast in the state’s largest county and the news in late May that a Georgia judge would be allowing a review of more than 100,000 mail-in ballots — in which Trump allies have initiated baseless inquiries into the 2020 election.

The results of the 2020 presidential election are not in doubt and there have been no credible allegations of fraud or misconduct that could have affected the outcome in any state. Dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump and his supporters failed to show evidence of widespread fraud and have been rejected by judges across the country. 

On May 24, just days before Vos announced his new investigation, the Wisconsin Elections Commission released a report showing that only 27 voters — out of 3.3 million who participated in the November election — had been referred to prosecutors for election-related violations. The report further undermined claims made by Trump that rampant voter fraud had cost him the election in Wisconsin. 

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Vos intends to hire “three former law enforcement officers along with an attorney who will oversee them” and that the investigators, as contractors working for the legislature, “will have subpoena power.” Vos also told the newspaper that the investigators would provide him with a report on their findings by the fall of 2021.

One of the officers selected by Vos, Mike Sandvick, previously wrote a report about election fraud that was disavowed by prosecutors and described by a federal judge as not trustworthy, the Journal Sentinel reported separately. Sandvick has also done work for the state Republican Party and the Texas-based voting-restrictionist group True the Vote. (See more about American Oversight’s investigation of True the Vote’s attempt to disenfranchise Georgia voters.)

American Oversight is investigating Vos’ election inquiry and has filed multiple public records requests in Wisconsin seeking to uncover key documents, including:

  • Any contracts between the Wisconsin Assembly and parties investigating the election, including the former law enforcement officers and the attorney supervisor;
  • Guidance, memos, or other directives regarding the scope of the investigation, its duration, or procedures for handling voter information;
  • Records of bids, project proposals, or cost estimates for the investigation, as well as records of any invoices or payments; 
  • Communications of Vos and two other lawmakers, state Reps. Janel Brandtjen and Joe Sanfelippo, regarding the investigation, as well as their communications with outside groups or individuals, including Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Cleta Mitchell, and others. 

In addition to perpetuating Trump’s big lie, one of the main objectives of such sham election audits is to create a pretext for enacting new restrictions on voting rights. The Journal Sentinel reported that Vos intends to use the results of his investigation to “identify laws that should be changed,” and Republican lawmakers in more than two dozen states have already cited false claims of voter fraud as justification for pushing anti-voting measures. Follow our investigation into these and other attacks on voting rights.

Related Documents

July 13, 2021

Letter to Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Vos Regarding Requests for Records

Wisconsin State Assembly
July 9, 2021

Wisconsin State Rep. Brandtjen Communications Regarding Election Investigation

Wisconsin State Assembly
Agency Record
July 8, 2021

Wisconsin State Rep. Brandtjen Communications Regarding Election Investigation

Wisconsin State Assembly
Agency Record
June 23, 2021

Wisconsin Elections Commission Records of Spindell’s External Communications

Wisconsin, Wisconsin Elections Commission
Agency Reply
June 23, 2021

Letter to Wisconsin Elections Commission Regarding Requests for Records

Wisconsin Elections Commission
June 16, 2021

Wisconsin State Rep. Born Communications Concerning Withholding Recount Funds

Wisconsin
Agency Record
June 15, 2021

Wisconsin Rep. Sanfelippo Communications Regarding Challenges to November 2020 Election

Wisconsin Senate
Agency Record
June 15, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin Rep. Brandtjen Seeking Communications Regarding Challenges to November 2020 Election

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
June 15, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin Rep. Sanfelippo Seeking Communications Regarding Challenges to November 2020 Election

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
June 15, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin Sen. Nass Seeking Communications Regarding Challenges to November 2020 Election

Wisconsin Senate
FOIA Request
June 15, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin Rep. Brandtjen Seeking Communications Regarding External Election Funding

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
June 15, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin Rep. Sanfelippo Seeking Communications Regarding External Election Funding

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
June 11, 2021

No Records Response from Wisconsin State Assembly Regarding Contracts with Entities Investigating November 2020 Election

Wisconsin State Assembly
Agency Record
June 9, 2021

Wisconsin State Rep. Sanfelippo Communications Regarding the Legislature’s Investigations of the 2020 Election

Wisconsin
Agency Record
June 9, 2021

Wisconsin State Rep. Sanfelippo Communications Regarding the Legislature’s Investigations of the 2020 Election

Wisconsin State Assembly
Agency Record
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin Assembly for Contracts with Entities Investigating November 2020 Election

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Vos for Communications Regarding Election Investigation

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin State Rep. Brandtjen for Communications Regarding Election Investigation

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin State Rep. Sanfelippo for Communications Regarding Election Investigation

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Vos for Communications with Wisconsin DOJ Regarding 2020 Election

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin State Rep. Brandtjen for Communications with Wisconsin DOJ Regarding 2020 Election

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin State Rep. Sanfelippo for Communications with Wisconsin DOJ Regarding 2020 Election

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Vos for Communications with External Parties

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin State Rep. Brandtjen for Communications with External Parties

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin State Rep. Sanfelippo for Communications with External Parties

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request
May 28, 2021

Records Request to Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Vos for Legal Authority for Election Investigation

Wisconsin State Assembly
FOIA Request