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Speaker Robin Vos announces expansion, more resources, for 2020 election probe
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PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION | WISCONSIN

Speaker Robin Vos announces expansion, more resources, for 2020 election probe

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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Friday granted former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman the authority to hire more full-time investigators for the GOP-backed probe into last year’s presidential election.

Citing the length of time expected for a “top-to-bottom investigation” into the 2020 election, Vos said Gableman, a conservative who was backed by Republicans, has been named “special counsel” in the investigation and is granted the authority to hire more full-time investigators who will work under Gableman’s direction.

Any additional investigators will likely add to the cost of the election probe. Vos has already agreed to pay the former justice $44,000 — $11,000 in taxpayer dollars every month between July and October — to lead the investigation.

“After talking with our original investigative team, we realize that the part-time nature of these contracts is less time than is needed to complete the investigation,” said Vos, R-Rochester, in a statement. “Justice Gableman will have the resources and ability to determine the need for any future adjustments.”

It remains unclear how much it will cost to add more investigators to the probe. Vos’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vos had originally hired two retired police detectives, at taxpayer expense, to review the election under the supervision of Gabelman. Vos told The Associated Press Friday the two officers had quit earlier this month.

The investigation follows unfounded claims of election fraud by former President Donald Trump and other national Republicans, who have called for a broadened probe into the results of the 2020 election, which saw Joe Biden win the state by a little more than 20,000 votes.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud and courts have rejected several lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies attempting to overturn the outcome. Democrats have blasted GOP calls for more investigations as feeding into the lie that Trump actually won the state.

“Giving Gableman a blank check from taxpayers makes our state and nation less secure, by continuing to give oxygen to lies and conspiracies about the 2020 election,” Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, tweeted, adding that Vos and Gableman “are threatening our democracy and abusing their power — power Vos only has because of gerrymandering.”

Vos said he hopes the investigation will be complete by this fall to allow for a review of its findings at the same time that the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau completes its election audit, which state Republicans ordered in February.

Earlier this week, Vos questioned the value of a second election investigation called for by Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, chair of the Assembly elections committee. Brandtjen said her committee will be seeking additional election records to complete a “comprehensive, forensic examination,” but didn’t give an exact timeline or details on who would be conducting the review or how it would be done.

Brandtjen has alleged, falsely, that thousands of new registrations and votes cast by individuals whose driver’s license number, name and date of birth did not match were subsequently removed from the state system after their votes were recorded.

In a statement Tuesday, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said voter data mismatches happen about 5% of the time, are almost always typos corrected by the clerk or voter and never result in voter records being removed from the system.

“It is unfortunate that Representative Brandtjen is claiming there are ‘ghost voters’ in Wisconsin when nothing could be further from the truth,” commission chair Ann Jacobs said in the statement. “She should stop spreading these wild conspiracy theories.”

Biden’s win in Wisconsin was confirmed by partial recounts ordered by Trump in Milwaukee and Dane counties, the state’s two most heavily Democratic counties.

There are almost no documented cases of election fraud in Wisconsin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Year in review: The top Madison-area stories of 2020

It started out well enough. The Badgers were making a late-in-coming run at the Final Four. Hometown insurance behemoth American Family announced it was boosting its starting minimum wage to $20 an hour. Madison East Siders welcomed a new Pinney branch library.

The first two and a half months of the year feel like a different era, when news of a strange new virus infecting people in China was safely tucked away in the back pages of the newspaper and the heart-breaking images of a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a 46-year-old Black man had yet to go viral.

Then came March and successive waves of closures, cancellations, lockdowns, furloughs, layoffs, infections and deaths. If the subsequent uprisings over the killing of George Floyd weren't enough to remind America that it has plenty of work to do to overcome racism, the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha tragically emphasized the point. And a divisive presidential election carried the tone of the year at the end.

While it may not be a year to look back on with particular fondness, 2020 no doubt is one to remember. Here's a look back at some of the top stories in the Madison area as they occurred.

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It marked the fourth consecutive loss in the Rose Bowl for UW, and the first time since 2013 that the program lost its final two games of the year.

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Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said Sunday the victim who officers found in an apartment at 1905 McKenna Blvd. shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday was a 20-year-old African American male.

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With the Green Bay defense failing to lay a hand on 49ers running back Raheem Mostert for much of the first half and the Aaron Rodgers-led offense committing two turnovers and failing to convert a third down yet again during a scoreless first 30 minutes, the Packers dug themselves a 27-0 halftime deficit on their way to a demoralizing 37-20 loss.

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Gutierrez, superintendent of the school district in Seguin, Texas, was announced Friday as the Madison School Board's pick to lead the district.

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The person returned to Dane County Regional Airport after a trip to Beijing Jan. 30 and went directly to UW Hospital's emergency room, officials said.

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This weekend's performances at the Alliant Energy Center will be the last with elephants in Dane County as a contract between the circus and the venue expires. 

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Tony Evers said he vetoed the legislation, which uses surplus revenue, because it doesn't invest in the state's schools. 

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Despite no Wisconsin cheeses finishing in the final top three, state producers dominated the competition, earning 45 gold medals out of 132 categories.

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This decision is unprecedented for Wisconsin's largest university and taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

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The closure order, to take effect no later than 5 p.m. on March 18, affects nearly 1 million Wisconsin children in grades K-12 in public and private schools.

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One was a man in his 50s from Fond du Lac County; the other was a man in his 90s from Ozaukee County.

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David A. Kahl, 53, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

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Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order represents a shift from the governor's position last week, when he said he did not plan on issuing such an order.

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Most voting locations saw few lines and smooth operations. But other places, notably Milwaukee, experienced significant delays, chaos and conditions that made it impossible for some voters to cast a ballot.

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Jill Karofsky's win over Dan Kelly cuts the court's conservative majority to 4-3, giving liberals a chance to take back control in 2023.

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The U.S. Air Force announced the final selection of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, capping more than three years of study and deep community division over the planes, which come with the promise of jobs and new construction but also noise and pollution.

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While applauded as a good first step, Democratic members, as well as public safety and health officials, have criticized the bill for not allocating more state funding to respond to the pandemic.

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For 30 years, "Ms. Milele" was the publisher of UMOJA magazine and a prominent leader in Madison's black community. She was "short in stature but mighty in force." 

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Free community testing for COVID-19 started at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on Monday morning.

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Gov. Tony Evers and legislative Republicans will need to work quickly to come up with a replacement plan.

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The Vilas Zoo, Goodman Pool, beaches and movie theaters are among the places not opening yet.

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There were signs early Sunday that the violence was spreading into other parts of the city.

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"It’s clear they have important process issues to work out," the candidate said.

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School Board President Gloria Reyes said the decision to pull police from Madison's four main high schools is effective immediately. 

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The Madison School Board chose Carlton Jenkins, a superintendent of a suburban Twin Cities school district, over another finalist for the job. He starts Aug. 4.

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As a Dane County public health order requiring face coverings in all indoor spaces outside the home took effect Monday, businesses offered mixed views on mandates, though for many retailers it was business as (the new) usual.

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There was no update on the second victim from the shooting at Schroeder Road and Chapel Hill Road Saturday night. 

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Travis M. Christianson, 44, is tentatively charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

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Republican President Donald Trump also has caused controversy for saying he might deliver acceptance speech at White House.

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The girl was in a car that was struck by gunfire late Tuesday morning on East Washington Avenue.

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The conference decided — after meetings between presidents and athletic directors, and outcry from players, coaches, politicians and fans — to cancel the fall sports season and will attempt to move football to the spring semester.

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"The video that came out of Kenosha is absolutely horrific. I don’t understand how people can watch it and not be here," one Madison protester said. 

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The fifth-seeded Heat finished off an upset of the NBA’s best regular-season team Tuesday, topping the Milwaukee Bucks 103-94 in Game 5 of their East semifinal series — while Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP, couldn’t play because of a sprained right ankle.

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UW-Madison is pausing in-person instruction for at least two weeks and quarantining more than 2,200 students living in two dorms.

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Police are not recommending charges against Althea Bernstein, saying there is a difference between someone trying to deceive law enforcement and not being able to corroborate a report of a crime.

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The alternate care facility at State Fair Park in West Allis may begin taking patients Thursday.

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A small crowd Downtown Saturday morning before the race was called turned into hundreds of people honking horns, cheering and waving signs after Biden was declared the winner, while some Trump supporters turned out in protest.

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"We understand the eyes of the world will be on these Wisconsin counties over the next few weeks,"  Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said.

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St. Mary's and Meriter expect to get vaccine soon.

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The flurry of activity caps off a tumultuous post-election saga in Wisconsin that has now concluded.

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A look back at the year 2020 through the lens of Wisconsin State Journal photographers John Hart, Amber Arnold and Steve Apps

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