Wisconsin election subpoenas, Voces de la Frontera can join challenge

Voces de la Frontera holds a voter registration block party on Milwaukee's south side (October 2020)

A Wisconsin judge on Wednesday allowed an immigrants rights group to join a pending lawsuit challenging subpoenas issued by a Republican-hired attorney investigating President Joe Biden's 2020 election win in the battleground state.

The move expands the legal challenge to subpoenas issued by Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice hired in June with $676,000 in taxpayer money to lead the investigation.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos ordered the investigation last summer after former President Donald Trump complained that Wisconsin Republicans weren’t doing enough to show Biden stole the state from him. Biden defeated Trump by about 21,000 votes. A recount and multiple court challenges have revealed no evidence of widespread fraud to back up Trump’s false claim.

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Gableman has subpoenaed the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the mayors of Wisconsin's five largest cities, immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, Gov. Tony Evers' administration as well as voting machine companies Election Systems & Software and Dominion Voting Systems.

Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit in October challenging the subpoena issued to the elections commission, saying it was overly broad and that Gableman should not be allowed to interview the state's elections administrator in private.

Michael Gableman

Voces de la Frontera was subpoenaed on Dec. 28 and asked last month to join Kaul's lawsuit.

Dane County Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford on Wednesday granted the Voces de la Frontera request, saying the issues at play were sufficiently similar and that the group's interests were distinct enough to warrant it.

"It makes no sense to this court to expend more judicial resources and more taxpayer dollars to challenge these subpoenas in a separate lawsuit given all of their similarities," Lanford ruled.

George Burnett, attorney for the Wisconsin Assembly, argued that allowing the legal fight to expand would only delay completion of the investigation.

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"The longer this matter drags on, the longer it is complicated, the more legal issues that are interjected, the more difficult it becomes to conclude this investigation," Burnett argued.

Voces de la Frontera attorney Dan Lenz rejected that argument, noting that the Assembly authorized the investigation in March and that the group was not subpoenaed until Dec. 28.

Lanford did not address the underlying merits of the lawsuit challenging the legality of the subpoenas. Lanford in January refused to immediately throw out the subpoenas issued to the elections commission, but said she would decide later on their validity.

The Voces de la Frontera subpoena seeks emails and other communications related to the 2020 election, as well as information about the group’s finances and contacts with government officials and other nonprofits.

Wisconsin Capitol in Madison

The mayors of Madison and Green Bay are also fighting subpoenas issued to them in a separate lawsuit. Gableman also subpoenaed the mayors of Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha.

A Waukesha County judge was expected to rule in April in the case brought by the Madison and Green Bay mayors contesting the subpoenas.

Attorneys for Nebraska-based ES&S sent Gableman a letter last month saying it would not comply with his subpoena.

There are also three pending lawsuits filed by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight alleging that Gableman and Vos have not turned over documents as required under Wisconsin's open records law.

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