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Gableman and redistricting make for more 2020 and 2022 Wisconsin election controversy

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Screenshot from Wisconsin Eye webcast
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman emphatically makes a point during Wednesday's hearing at the state Capitol.

Elections, both last year's and next year's, are making a major splash in Wisconsin this week.

On Wednesday, the conservative former State Supreme Court justice leading the Republican-ordered and taxpayer-financed investigation into the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin appeared before a state Assembly committee. Michael Gableman disclosed that's he's spent about $175,000 on the probe so far, including his pay of $11,000 per month.

Gableman also revealed most of the names of people working for him. He would not name one individual but said the probe is paying the man $40 an hour, though the individual has a full-time employer.

"There is nothing improper or irregular about his service. However, for personal reasons, I find it more prudent not to reveal his identity. He is currently a data expert for the investigation team," Gableman said.

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screengrab from Wisconsin Eye
Assembly Elections Committee Chair Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) listens during Wednesday's hearing.

Republicans on the panel, including Chairperson Janel Brandtjen of Menomonee Falls, posed friendly questions to Gableman. But comments and questions from Democrats made the former jurist angry.

In one heated exchange with Representative Mark Spreitzer of Beloit, Gableman shouted: "I never said anything about overturning the election! Stop making things up, Mark! Your constituents deserve better. Shame on you!" Spreitzer replied to Gableman: "Shame on you!"

Gableman also blasted some local election officials, accusing them of not cooperating with his probe, and criticized the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a series of stories looking into his doings.

It's hardly the only political controversy coming out of Madison this week. On Tuesday, the conservative majority on the state Supreme Court said it would make as few changes as possible to the current electoral maps drawn by Republicans and enacted ten years ago.

Democrats say the maps would favor the GOP in elections next year and for the rest of the decade.

Sachin Chheda of the Fair Elections Project said the state court ruling is a setback for democracy, but it isn't the last word on redistricting.

"There's going to be some steps in the coming weeks where they actually evaluate and decide what the map is. Once the state Supreme Court has completed their process, we think there will be some litigation in federal court, to determine if the state map complies with the federal Voting Rights Act," Chheda said.

Chheda said he believes GOP maps already vetoed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers would harm the voting rights of Black and Latino voters.

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Shauntay Nelson, Wisconsin State Director of All Voting Is Local, speaks during an online briefing held Wednesday by the National Task Force on Election Crises

Shauntay Nelson, a Black woman from Milwaukee who heads the state chapter of All Voting Is Local, told a national media call that unfair control of district lines allows incumbents to pass measures restricting access to voting.

"If an individual is protected by the borders or boundaries of their district, they also don't have to listen to certain constituencies that are impacted by these measures that are being put in place to ensure that the vote is restricted," Nelson said.

Also on Wednesday, the Wisconsin Elections Commission spent hours responding to a critical audit that has Republicans pressuring the state's top election official to resign.

That official, Meagan Wolfe, has said she will stay on the job.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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