Wisconsin judge revives complaint over 2020 fake electors
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin's bipartisan elections commission must disregard its earlier ruling unanimously rejecting a complaint against fake presidential electors who attempted to cast the state's ballots for former President Donald Trump when it rehears the case, a judge ruled Tuesday.
A Republican commissioner who considered the original complaint must not take part in the reconsideration because he was one of the 10 fake electors, Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington ruled. That commissioner, Robert Spindell, as well as the state elections commission agreed in court filings before the judge ruled that he should never have participated.
Fake electors met in Wisconsin and other battleground states that Trump lost in 2020, attempting to cast ballots for the former president even though he lost. Republicans who participated in Wisconsin said they were trying to preserve Trump's legal standing in case courts overturned his defeat.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission and Spindell denied the filer of the complaint due process, Remington ruled.
Remington made clear in his order that the commission must decide the complaint “giving no deference to or consideration of its previous decision.”
The remaining commission members charged with considering the complaint are three Democrats and two Republicans. Two other commissioners who voted last year to reject the original complaint — one Republican and one Democrat — are no longer on the commission.
The rehearing will take place in a closed meeting and it's unclear when the commission's decision will be made public. Commission spokesperson Riley Vetterkind had no immediate comment on the judge's ruling or next steps.
Madison-based liberal law firm Law Forward filed a complaint with the commission in 2021 alleging that Republicans illegally posed as Wisconsin electors in an attempt to convince the U.S. Congress to declare Trump won the state in 2020, even though he lost to President Joe Biden by about 21,000 votes.
“To emphasize, Wisconsin voters chose none of these persons to serve as presidential elector — on the contrary, each had been named to serve as the potential electors for a losing candidate,” Remington wrote in his ruling.
The complaint asked the elections commission to investigate the fake electors’ actions and declare that they broke the law.
The commission voted unanimously last year in a closed meeting to reject the complaint, saying Republicans who attempted to cast the state’s 10 electoral college votes for Trump did not break any election laws.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice concluded that Republicans were legitimately trying to preserve Trump’s legal standing as courts were deciding if he or Biden won the election. That is the same argument that Trump allies and the fake electors from Wisconsin have made, including in testimony to the Jan. 6 committee.
Law Forward and Madison law firm Stafford Rosenbaum sued the commission and Spindell on behalf of Paul Sickel, executive director of the Service Employees International Union’s Wisconsin State Council. Sickel also brought the original complaint to the elections commission.
Law Forward attorney Scott Thompson heralded the judge's ruling, calling it a “victory for protecting our democracy.”
“A key participant in the fake electors scheme manipulated his position of power to serve as judge and jury of his own behavior," Thompson said. “This was unconstitutional, and the order today confirmed it.”
The same attorneys have another pending lawsuit seeking $2.4 million in damages from the fake electors and Trump attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Jim Troupis.
Scott Bauer, The Associated Press