Wisconsin AG seeks to block subpoenas of Tony Evers' administration as Republican election review widens

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MADISON – Assembly Republicans are seeking a swath of records from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' administration as they review the 2020 election — a move that the attorney general tried to block in court on Friday.

The day's developments marked the latest escalation in a dispute over a presidential election that recounts and courts determined Joe Biden won more than a year ago.

Wisconsin taxpayers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the election review and the various legal fights it has spawned.

The existence of the subpoenas to the state Department of Administration was revealed Friday when Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul asked a Dane County judge to block or narrow them.

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The subpoenas were issued on Dec. 28 by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, whom Assembly Republicans hired last summer to review the election. That's the same day he issued numerous other subpoenas.

Kaul first challenged Gableman's investigation in October, when he filed a lawsuit to block subpoenas Gableman issued earlier to the state Elections Commission.

Dane County Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford this month declined to immediately throw out the subpoenas but kept the lawsuit alive so she could decide their validity later.

More: Michael Gableman, the former Supreme Court justice reviewing Wisconsin's 2020 election, has a history of trouble with facts

Kaul on Friday filed a motion in that lawsuit to challenge the latest subpoenas, which seek forensic images of servers and computers, "all documents" held by the state related to elections, communications with voting machine companies, file transfers between the state and its largest cities, and a raft of data about voter registrations that were activated or deactivated during the 2020 election cycle.

In his filing, Kaul argued Gableman cannot issue such broad subpoenas and cannot interview officials behind closed doors as he intends. They are the same arguments he is making to try to throw out the subpoenas to the Elections Commission

"The subpoenas for depositions of additional people behind closed doors are just as unlawful as the previously issued deposition subpoenas," Kaul said in a written statement. "However long Speaker (Robin) Vos chooses to keep this investigation flailing on, wasting more and more tax dollars, it must be conducted in accordance with the law."

Gableman and Vos did not immediately react to the legal filing late Friday.

This month the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera asked to join the lawsuit over subpoenas, saying it had received demands for documents that it considers unconstitutional. A hearing next week could determine whether the group can participate in the case.

Separately, attorneys for voting machine company Election Systems & Software recently sent Gableman a pointed letter saying it would not comply with subpoenas he issued to the firm because he has no authority to demand its records. Gableman has not said whether he will try to get a court to force the Nebraska company to turn over any material.

Other legal fights over Gableman's work are also underway. Gableman has sued the mayors of Madison and Green Bay trying to force them to sit for interviews with him.

Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich has asked the judge overseeing that case to sanction Gableman, saying he has publicly mischaracterized what has happened.

Meanwhile, the liberal group American Oversight has filed three lawsuits alleging Republicans have not released documents about their work under the state's open records law.

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Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Kaul seeks to block Gableman subpoenas of Evers administration