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Thursday, May 26th, 2022
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MADISON — A Racine County judge is expected to issue a ruling soon on whether Racine city officials violated Wisconsin’s open records law related to documents surrounding the 2020 presidential election.

Judge Faye Flancher heard arguments Tuesday from lawyers representing state Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), chair of the Assembly Campaigns and Elections committee. The judge is expected to issue a ruling on Monday.

Brandtjen, the Wisconsin Voter Alliance, and H.O.T. Government, a local Racine citizens group promoting “honest, open, and transparent (H.O.T)” government, is suing Racine for refusing to turn over court requested documents related to allegations of election bribery in Wisconsin’s 2020 election.

Attorneys for the city claim they turned over everything Brandtjen and others seeking election-related communications had sought. But Erick Kaardal, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a national conservative public interest law firm, pointed to the limited number of emails released by a city official involved in a controversial private election grant effort.

The documents, sought by court order on Feb. 4, included paperwork related to Racine’s involvement in the “Wisconsin 5” cities’ Safe Voting Plan agreement with the the liberal Center for Tech and Civic Life — funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The plan and the actions and agreements surrounding it are at the roots of serious election bribery allegations in lawsuits against Racine, Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and Kenosha. Racine was at the center of it all.

As a Wisconsin Spotlight investigation uncovered, the Safe Voting Plan opened the door to millions of dollars in “safe election” administration grants to the so-called Wisconsin 5 cities. The funding, however, could be pulled back if the cities didn’t follow the terms of the contract, which included legally suspect requirements.

Despite numerous requests for the documents dating from the period between March and June 2020, the city of Racine has refused to produce them, the lawsuit alleges.

It was discovered by Thomas More Society attorneys that of the requested documents not produced to them, some were delivered to a third party.

In response, the attorneys for Brandtjen and the voter groups have requested that the Racine County Circuit Court name Mark Lanterman, a nationally recognized cybersecurity expert, to serve as a court-appointed neutral to assist the city in the production and delivery of all the court-ordered documents.

“Wisconsin has an election integrity problem,” Kaardal said. “The Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life spent over $200,000 purchasing legally unauthorized absentee ballot drop boxes for the cities of Racine, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison, and Kenosha to use in the Nov. 3, 2020, election. It was illegal for the cities to use these ballot drop boxes and it was election bribery for the Center for Tech and Civic Life to pay for them.”

Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the use of absentee ballot drop boxes and ballot harvesting that dominated the 2020 presidential election.

As for Racine, Kaardal said getting to the bottom of the events leading up to Election Day 2020 is vital to the public interest.

“This lawsuit is about uncovering exactly how the mayors of Wisconsin’s five largest cities got involved with the Center for Tech and Civic Life and these illegalities,” Kaardal said.

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