Dane County officials are questioning the authenticity of an email signed by the leader of a Republican-ordered investigation into the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin and raising concerns about how the sensitive information the email requests would be protected.
The message signed by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who is leading the probe, asked county clerks to retain all records related to the election and notify him if any had been destroyed. It comes after Gableman initially asked the Wisconsin Elections Commission for the data. But elections are run locally and all of the ballots, voting machines and other data are maintained by county and municipal officials.
The email was signed by Gableman but came from a Gmail account for a “John Delta.”
“I cannot confirm the authenticity of its origin,” wrote Dane County senior systems administrator Brian Wimann to County Clerk Scott McDonell. “I would strongly recommend against replying to it with any information. If these actions are in an official capacity, I would expect it to come from an email account with an official Wisconsin.gov email address.”
Wimann also said that the county had received no verification of any operational security practices from the special counsel.
“I would not recommend any disclosure of sensitive information until official channels of communication have been established and verified,” Wimann wrote McDonell.
Gableman did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. No one immediately responded to an email with questions about security concerns sent to the John Delta address.
The email signed by Gableman said that he also intends to contact every municipal clerk once he obtains their email addresses from the state elections commission. In the meantime, he asks the county clerks to forward his request to the clerks.
McDonell said he had to talk with his staff before knowing how he would respond to the email signed by Gableman.
Earlier Monday, McDonell told the Wisconsin State Journal the county hasn’t deleted any election materials and plans to retain them, but he criticized Gableman for including municipal clerks in his letter, who he said do not have the data Gableman wants. The counties do.
“I think he needs to spend a little more time understanding how elections work in Wisconsin,” McDonell said.
McDonell said having outside investigators such as Gableman have access to voting machines or other equipment would put security at risk. He said it would void voting equipment warranties and force the county to buy new voting equipment. He also expressed concern over the possibility of sending sensitive information to Gableman via email, which he feared would expose the information to hackers.
State law requires clerks to save records related to voting for 22 months after an election. The language specifically includes memory devices but says nothing about voting equipment itself or the software that supports it.
The email signed by Gableman said his request covers “otherwise routine software updates to election systems that might have in the past or will in the future corrupt or erase and/or otherwise compromise relevant records, or which might obstruct examination and investigation.”
President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by just over 20,000 votes in Wisconsin. The results survived recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties and numerous court challenges, but some Republicans are pushing for broader reviews of how the election was run.
Republican lawmakers have said their intention is not to overturn Biden’s win but to look for ways to make future elections more secure. Democrats, and some Republicans, have said the supports of such reviews are trying to undermine faith in elections, which evidence has repeatedly shown were fair and accurate.
Republican lawmakers ordered an election review, which is ongoing, by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, under pressure from Trump and those who believe the election was stolen, ordered a separate investigation led by Gableman.
On Friday, about 100 people who don’t trust the LAB or Gableman to do fair investigations called on Vos and other legislative Republican leaders to get behind a “full forensic physical and cyber audit.”
Calls for election reviews come as prosecutors in Wisconsin have brought election fraud charges against just two people out of about 3.3 million who voted.
State Journal reporter Riley Vetterkind contributed to this report.