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Chair of elections committee shares debunked claim

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The chair of the Wisconsin State Assembly's committee on elections used a debunked claim as an example of "irregularities" that justify state lawmakers' plans to question clerks this week about the November 3 election.

Rep. Ron Tusler (R - Harrison) said during an interview with the statewide Sunday morning program, Upfront, the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections would meet this week.

While no meeting was listed on the Assembly's committees calendar as of Sunday evening, Tusler said a hearing would be scheduled and members would question county and municipal clerks. Tusler said the committee would consider issuing subpoenas to clerks who did not accept their requests to testify.

"We've received over 3,500 complaints or concerns just in my office," Tusler said. "And I'm one of 99 state representatives."

To illustrate his point about the concerns some conservative voters have about the election, Tusler shared a debunked claim about voting machines in a right-leaning Michigan county switching votes from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.

"We're gonna get information whether we had any Dominion (voting equipment maker) issues, that Dominion software that caused 6,000 votes that were made for Trump to switch to Biden in Antrim County, Michigan," Tusler said. "That already happened. We know it happened."

Both Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy said that's not what happened. They explained it was a user error in failing to fully update all of the county's election software. Both Benson and Guy said the error has been corrected; it now shows Trump handily won the county.

"It's breathtakingly irresponsible to raise a claim that's already been knocked down by official sources after a careful truth and vetting process," said UW-Madison Journalism & Mass Communications Professor Mike Wagner. "It's kind of baffling to me that claim keeps coming back up."

Wagner said Tusler's sharing of a debunked claim was particularly reckless given his position at the top of a legislative committee that will begin investigating whether anything improper happened in Wisconsin.

"Most people do not wake up asking themselves 'how do I hold my government accountable today?' We look to the leaders of our country to help give us signals about what we can trust and what we can't," Wagner said.

During the Upfront interview, Tusler said it is extremely unlikely either the Assembly's investigation or a recount would overturn Biden's lead of more than 20,000 votes in Wisconsin. County clerks have until Tuesday finish their canvass of the results and turn them over to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

"The idea is half of the state of Wisconsin is concerned with whether this was a fair election or not," Tusler said. "What I really want, the goal of this investigation, is transparency. It's answering those questions and concerns people have."

Last Thursday, a collection of federal agencies, including the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency shared a joint statement that called the November 3 election the most secure in American history.

It specifically rejected claims like the one Tusler shared.

"There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised," the statement read.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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