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Election probe should conclude before primary voting day

Dozens of candidates have stepped forward to run for La Crosse County Board, and they should be applauded.

Dozens more are running for school boards throughout the region, deciding they want to become involved rather than sit on the sidelines.

The candidates facing Feb. 15 primary challenges are busy now, while those competing in the spring election April 5 have more time.

Those are just two of four elections in Wisconsin in 2022, which promises to be a challenging year for county clerks and elections workers all over the state.

Challenging, but they are experts at it. And they don’t need or deserve a threatening cloud hanging over them and the process.

The candidates don’t need or deserve a threatening cloud over their bid for local office either.

It should be up the voters, as it always is. Vote, count it, and move on.

Yet Wisconsin taxpayers are still paying for a probe into the 2020 race for president. And that probe — being conducted by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to ensure every vote is counted — is the threatening cloud over the four elections this year.

Gableman is threatening mayors as the $676,000 investigation grinds on, and of late key Republicans who pushed for the probe are sending a different signal.

Take state Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, chair of the Senate’s elections committee and former county elections clerk.

She sounded the alarm earlier for a probe. But in recent weeks she has called for it to end swiftly.

“No election is perfect but there is not evidence of intentional malfeasance. No evidence that the election in 2020 wasn’t accurate,” Bernier said last month. “So we cannot keep undermining our Republic. It is not easy to fraudulently vote in the state of Wisconsin.”

Bernier said Gableman’s investigation contains “made-up things” meant to play to the Republican base.

“Mr. Gableman is coming to my county and I will attend that meeting along with my concealed carry permit, to be perfectly honest, because (Gableman’s investigation) keeps jazzing up the people who think they know what they’re talking about, and they don’t,” Bernier said. “My advice would be to have Mr. Gableman wrap up sooner rather than later.”

Gableman has responded by calling for her to resign. She has announced that she does not plan to seek re-election.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who has blamed Democrats for lengthening the probe by not responding to Gableman, now says he wants it to conclude this month and for Gableman to present recommendations in February. The GOP-led legislature, says Vos, would act on those recommendations in March.

Notice that Vos’ timetable extends this past the first primary and toward the spring election. That is ridiculous.

In the meantime, State Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, is asking questions that many Wisconsinites would ask.

With a price tag of $676,000, Carpenter said the public deserves to know how every penny is being spent.

“I respect former Justice Michael Gableman,” Carpenter said. “I’ve talked to him many times during State of the State speeches, but his bully tough approach and the waste of taxpayers’ dollars is inexcusable.”

The clock should be ticking loudly on the Gableman probe, and it all should end — including his “recommendations” and legislative “action” — before the February 15 primary.

The candidates, county clerks and elections workers all over the state deserve that, as do the voters who should be able to go to the polls in 2022 knowing that they are still not paying for 2020.

– La Crosse Tribune

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