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MADISON - Former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is calling on a GOP state senator to resign for criticizing the review of the 2020 election he is conducting for Assembly Republicans.
Republican state Sen. Kathleen Bernier of Lake Hallie this month referred to Gableman’s work as a charade and said he should wrap up his review quickly. Bernier said she would bring a concealed weapons permit with her if she went to see Gableman address a crowd because his work “keeps jazzing up” people who don’t know what they’re talking about.
Gableman responded to her comments Monday in an address to the Chippewa County Republican Party — Bernier’s home county.
"I'm not here to persuade you of anything — or, as a local legislator, hopefully for not too much longer — I'm not here to jazz you up. I am here to educate you," Gableman said, according to a video of his remarks posted on the party's Facebook page.
He noted Bernier had said she would bring her concealed weapons permit with her but added he did not believe she had any intention of shooting him.
"It's just that she had been so afraid of her own constituents that she wanted to be armed," Gableman said. "And I guess I had several reactions to that, one of which was, geez, if you're an elected official and you're so afraid of your constituents that you think you have to bring a firearm to see them, you should take a long hard look at what you've been doing. And then, frankly, resign."
His comments were met with applause.
Assembly Republicans this summer gave Gableman a $676,000 taxpayer-funded budget to look into the 2020 election. He told the Chippewa County Republican Party he may ask for more money.
"In fair warning, I am about to start spending more money," Gableman told the crowd.
Gableman's review is focused on an election that recounts, court rulings and independent reviews have determined was properly called for Joe Biden.
His work has been slowed by a lawsuit by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul that challenges subpoenas Gableman issued to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. After hearing 2½ hours of arguments in the case Thursday, a judge said she would issue a ruling on the subpoenas by mid-January.
Bernier says 'We need to move on'
In response, Bernier said Gableman "clearly has very thin skin."
"I am not afraid of my constituents, I've been out and about nearly every day," she said in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I have received a great deal of support from Democrats, Independents and Republicans."
She said Gableman should not be talking publicly about his election review while it is ongoing and brushed off his claim that she should resign.
"He is the last person on Earth who should call for anyone's resignation," she said in her email.
This month she initially said she would attend Gableman’s event but later said she decided against going because she didn’t want to create a distraction. She called her comment about her concealed weapons permit "stupid" and a "verbal blunder" that left her open to criticism.
"It was really something that popped into my head that I kind of said out loud, and it should have stayed in my head and not out my mouth," she said in an interview before Gableman called for her to resign.
In that interview, she said she remains a conservative despite her criticism of Gableman.
"The point is, people, we need to stop putting a shadow over our elected officials, especially our presidents that were duly elected," she said. "And now, you know, Biden was elected president. We need to move on."
Gableman has appeared at other Republican events in recent weeks, including one in Beloit where he showed support for former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is running for governor, and Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, who is running for attorney general.
In Chippewa County, Gableman offered praise for former state Rep. Adam Jarchow, who is running against Toney in the GOP primary for attorney general. The winner will face Kaul.
Gableman rails against voter rolls
Gableman criticized the bipartisan Elections Commission for how it maintains its voter database. When someone dies, moves out of state or otherwise becomes ineligible to vote, election officials deactivate their voter registrations but don't remove their names from the database.
Election officials say they follow that practice because it helps them keep track of voters when they move. They also say the approach helps them quickly determine if someone tries to register in the name of someone who has died.
Gableman called the practice "crazy" and said it could lead to fraud.
"They knowingly keep inaccurate voting rolls," Gableman said of the Elections Commission. "Why is that important? It’s important because that gives more names for those that want to commit fraud. It gives them real names of real people. They may be dead people but they’re still real, right? And they’re still on the voting rolls so if someone wants to vote them, there is that possibility."
Ann Jacobs, the Democratic chairwoman of the Elections Commission, called Gableman's comments ridiculous.
"It's completely incorrect and shows a profound misunderstanding of how databases work," she said in an interview.
"We also limit who can activate or inactivate voters, and they have to show the reasons why and the like. So, no, you can't un-dead someone and vote for them. That's not how this works."
Gableman is a backer of Donald Trump who claimed last year without evidence that the election was stolen. In recent months he has met with election conspiracy theorists but said he is not seeking to overturn the results.
Gableman on Monday told his audience he was looking into grants the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life gave to Wisconsin municipalities to help them run their elections; the state's voting practices at nursing homes; and how voting machines operate.
Gableman sided with election experts and broke with some on the right by saying he saw no evidence that the Chinese government or anyone else hacked Wisconsin voting machines.
He said he hadn't found anything to support MyPillow Chief Executive Mike Lindell's far-fetched contentions about hacking but wants to study whether the machines are vulnerable to attacks. Gableman in August attended a forum Lindell posted that election officials have dismissed as absurd.
Court to rule in January
Dane County Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford heard arguments Thursday in the lawsuit over his Gableman's subpoenas. She said at the hearing's conclusion that she would issue a ruling by Jan. 10.
Her decision could determine whether Republicans can conduct their work in secret or must take testimony from election officials and others in public. An appeal is likely however she rules.
In his lawsuit, Kaul argues subpoenas are overbroad. He contends any interviews Gableman conducts with commission director Meagan Wolfe must be done in public, rather than behind closed doors, as Gableman wants.
Attorneys for Gableman and Republican lawmakers say Kaul and the commission don't have the authority to bring the lawsuit and it should be thrown out. They say state law allows him to conduct interviews in secret.
Gableman has brought his own lawsuit in Waukesha County that seeks to jail the mayors of Green Bay and Madison because he argues they haven't cooperated with him. The mayors contend they have complied with his requests and the dispute has led to dueling threats to seek legal sanctions against one another.
Contact Patrick Marley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Gableman calls for resignation of GOP senator who criticized him