Group Pushes for WI Voting Changes 12/06 06:29
A group formed to support former President Donald Trump's agenda is working
with Wisconsin Republicans on a ballot measure that would bypass the state's
Democratic governor to change how elections are run in the battleground state.
MADISON, Wisc. (AP) -- A group formed to support former President Donald
Trump's agenda is working with Wisconsin Republicans on a ballot measure that
would bypass the state's Democratic governor to change how elections are run in
the battleground state.
The effort represents a new escalation in the ongoing Republican campaign to
alter voting laws in response to Trump's false claims of widespread fraud in
the 2020 election. It comes as Wisconsin has become the epicenter of this
year's voting wars, with Republicans trying to dismantle the election system
they themselves put in place several years ago -- and figure out how to do that
with a Democratic governor still in office.
The backing for a possible route around Gov. Tony Evers was revealed during
a private meeting on elections hosted by the American Legislative Exchange
Council, which advocates conservative policies to state lawmakers in voting and
other areas. Trump's former White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told attendees
that his new organization, the Center for Election Integrity, was working with
elected officials and business leaders in Wisconsin "to figure out the best
path" around Evers, who has said he will block GOP-backed election measures.
"We feel as though the governor can't do anything about it and it will
become law," Gidley said in a recording of the session made by an attendee and
obtained by The Associated Press.
The strategy is similar to one already underway in Michigan. State
Republicans there already are gathering signatures to place a measure on the
ballot that would tighten that state's voting laws, an effort to get around
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's veto of a similar bill that passed the
GOP-controlled state legislature. But Gidley's statement is the first
indication of a Trump-tied group engaged in a similar tactic in Wisconsin.
Reached for comment, Gidley initially said he'd provide more details about
his work in Wisconsin, but did not respond to further requests for comment.
Bill McCoshen, head of the policy board for a conservative group called
Common Sense Wisconsin, said he met with Gidley in Milwaukee six weeks ago to
discuss getting an elections proposal on the ballot.
"I think they thought it was a good idea," McCoshen said. "They haven't made
a commitment to us one way or the other."
McCoshen's proposal would require elections to be run the same way across
Wisconsin; early voting hours and days would have to be the same in every
community, and some would have to change how they count absentee ballots. The
measure is largely viewed as an attempt to force the state's Democratic cities
to restrict access.
The proposal would also bar private groups from making large donations to
the state's heavily Democratic cities.
Wisconsin Republicans have been angry about more than $10 million in
election grants that went to more than 200 municipalities last year, the bulk
of it going to the state's five largest cities, which are all Democratic
strongholds. The money came from $350 million in election donations from
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that have triggered deep conservative
Under the amendment, money like that would have to be shared by all
municipalities in the state.
The changes require amending the state constitution, a process that takes at
least two years because the Legislature has to pass it in two consecutive
sessions. No amendment to do so has been introduced yet in the statehouse.
Following Trump's narrow loss of Wisconsin last year, the state has been
roiled by a Republican attack on the bipartisan elections commission the
GOP-controlled Legislature itself created six years ago.
Gidley's group is part of America First Policy Institute, an organization
created during the Trump administration to promote the former president and his
The three-hour session where Gidley spoke occurred Wednesday, during the
conservative council's state and national policy summit in San Diego,
The session reflects how election issues have moved to the heart of the GOP
agenda since Trump falsely blamed his 2020 loss on fraud. Repeated audits,
investigations and lawsuits -- including by Trump's own Department of Justice
-- turned up no significant fraud in the presidential election. But that has
not stopped Republican state legislatures from pushing new laws that largely
put new limits on voting.
During the session, participants heard from Cleta Mitchell, a prominent
conservative attorney who advised the former president earlier this year as he
pressured Georgia Republicans to declare him the winner of a state President
Joe Biden won. Also addressing the group was Arizona Senate President Karen
Fann, who approved a review of the election in that state's largest county that
chased a variety of conspiracy theories. It was unable to prove any fraud in
Biden's victory there.
Gidley praised the Arizona review. "Arizona has done a great job with their
audits," he told the group.