MADISON – A group of Republican state lawmakers plan to fly south to observe a controversial review of 2020 ballots in Arizona — an overnight trip that comes as legislative leaders launch an investigation of Wisconsin’s presidential contest.
Six GOP lawmakers and one legislative staff member requested permission this week to take a trip to Phoenix on Friday and return Saturday to observe the recount of ballots in Maricopa County, meet with lawmakers and talk to vendors who facilitated the review.
“The point of the trip is to observe a large-scale recounting process using volunteers and contracted vendors to determine ballot integrity and possible reconstruction of the Dominion machine programming,” Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, said in a Wednesday letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester seeking approval for the trip.
Vos approved the request, according to a spokeswoman.
Brandtjen said the trip will be paid for by a group called Voices & Votes, self-described as an organization aimed at “protecting free speech from cancel culture.”
The review of ballots in Maricopa County has drawn attention and criticism from around the country, including the county’s Republican-led board of supervisors, which last month called the project a “sham” and a “con.”
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, called the lawmakers “paranoid nuts” for taking the trip.
“They are feeding into the biggest lie this country has ever seen … I hope they bring their tinfoil hats,” he said Thursday.
Vos recently hired an attorney and three former law enforcement officers, including one who has a partisan past, to further review Wisconsin’s election. That review is being conducted in conjunction with the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee, which Brandtjen leads.
The Arizona review is being conducted by a cybersecurity firm called Cyber Ninjas that has no history of auditing elections. Workers are examining ballots using microscopes and UV lights. One official involved has said they are looking for traces of bamboo to try to prove an unfounded theory that 40,000 ballots were smuggled from Asia to Arizona.
Three Pennsylvania officials toured the ballot inspection in Phoenix last week with an eye toward doing one of their own. And last month, a judge in Georgia gave a conspiracy-minded group the green light to inspect absentee ballots in that state.
“As Ronald Reagan said, ‘trust but verify,’ I believe such a large-scale recount may prove insightful as it was for members of the Pennsylvania and Georgia legislature have also seen this process,” Brandtjen wrote.
She did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Lawmakers listed as planning to join the trip with Brandtjen are GOP Reps. Calvin Callahan of Tomahawk, Rachael Cabral-Guevara of Appleton, David Murphy of Greenville, Donna Rozar of Marshfield and Chuck Wichgers of Muskego.
The Arizona review is part of a national effort by Republicans to ensure that future elections are administered more to their liking. As it did more than a decade earlier on immigration enforcement, Arizona could help set a standard for others to follow.
Hope Karnopp of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Ronald Hansen of the Arizona Republic contributed to this report.