A prominent Wisconsin Republican delivered a stinging rebuke of the state legislature’s “investigation” into the 2020 presidential election results Monday, saying her party should move on from bogus claims of voter fraud for its own good, and for the good of the country.
“No election is perfect, but there is no evidence of intentional malfeasance, no evidence that the election in 2020 wasn’t accurate,” said State Sen. Kathy Bernier (R), a member of the chamber’s Republican leadership and chair of the Committee on Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics.
At one point Monday, Bernier choked back tears as she recited the famous quote from Benjamin Franklin, describing America’s newly-drafted constitution in 1787: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
“We’re in jeopardy of losing it,” Bernier said.
“We have a great system here, and no one should falsely accuse election officials of cheating,” she added separately, at a press event flanked by the prominent election lawyers Ben Ginsberg and Bob Bauer, as well as David Becker of the Center for Election Innovation & Research and Matt Masterson, a former election security official at the Department of Homeland Security.
The comments came amid serious Republican attacks s on Wisconsin’s election systems. Michael Gableman, a former Supreme Court justice tasked by State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) with investigating the 2020 election, recently threatened to jail the mayors of Green Bay and Madison, who he says are standing in the way of his investigation.
And Vos himself has said members of Wiconson’s state election authority should “probably” be charged with felonies for a 2020 change to nursing home voting procedures that was made to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has encouraged Republicans at the state level to take over control of elections themselves from the Wisconsin Election Commission, a bipartisan body that Republicans created six years ago.
Bernier said she’s spoken to Vos about Gableman’s investigation, which she described as politics, not policy, influenced by “the pressure from Donald Trump.” She separately referred to “this constant drumbeat of all the ‘massive voter fraud’” as “a charade.”
Bernier noted that she would be attending an upcoming meeting that Gableman is holding in her home county “with my concealed carry permit, to be perfectly honest, because it keeps jazzing up the people who think they know what they’re talking about, and they don’t.”
“My advice would be to have Mr. Gableman wrap up sooner rather than later, because the longer we keep this up, the more harm we’re going to do for Republicans,” she added
The state senator, who is herself a former county clerk, has a history of resisting the prevailing Republican narrative about the 2020 election. In September, after Gableman attended MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s absurd “Cyber Symposium,” where attendees were promised non-existent proof of Chinese election hacking, Bernier held her own event in Wisconson — a nonpartisan crash course in election administration.
There was a point, last spring, when Bernier cheered on efforts to investigate the last presidential election. In May, responding to news that Vos had hired two former police officers to probe the 2020 election, Bernier wrote on Twitter, “This is great! If there is nothing to see here, that is fine, but if there is, then we should specifically address the issues.”
Responding to a question about the tweet from TPM Monday, the state senator said she stood by the message, and that investigatory work completed in the interim had established the integrity of the 2020 election.
“The evidence has been pretty clear, and is pretty clear, that there is not organized voter fraud,” she said. “We have enough evidence now to provide that we can have a lot of confidence in our election.”
“We need to move on for the greater good,” she added.