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Judge refuses to block subpoena ordering Wisconsin official to testify in election integrity probe

Head of election commission had challenged subpoenas as unconstitutional.

Published: January 10, 2022 5:09pm

Updated: January 10, 2022 11:19pm

A judge Monday refused to block a subpoena requiring the head of the Wisconsin Election Commission to testify in a Legislature-approved investigation into voting integrity.

Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe had contested the subpoena from former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Gableman, named by lawmakers to lead the elections probe, on the grounds that is was unconstitutional.

But Dane County Circuit Court Judge Rhonda L. Lanford ruled that Wolfe, while entitled to sue, had not met the burden to prove she would be irreparably harmed by complying.

"At this time and on this record Plaintiffs have not met the legal requirements for a temporary injunction," Lanford ruled in what is an initial victory for Gableman's probe. 

Wolfe and other Democrats have been resisting Gableman's probe, suggesting he is exceeding his power by inquiring into the lead-up to the 2020 vote.

Gableman has asked Wolfe to sit for a deposition, and Lanford said there wasn't enough evidence presented to block that request.

Wolfe "addressed the merits of the case, but did not address irreparable harm," the judge wrote. "In their reply brief, [Wolfe and her lawyers] did not address irreparable harm, inadequate remedy at law, or preservation of the status quo. Plaintiffs were given the opportunity to supplement their submission before the December 23, 2021 hearing in this matter, and provided no further evidence or testimony at the hearing."

But the judge left the door open for Wolfe, and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to make that case at another court hearing.

Gableman is seeking answers to many rule changes made by the Wisconsin Election Commission, as well as how large donations from a nonprofit funded by Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg — so-called Zuckerbucks — were spent by election judges and administrators in the state.

Gableman is facing a deadline to wrap up his investigation by end of next month. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he wants to start voting on legislation inspired by the investigation in March.

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