A Dane County judge ruled on Wednesday that the immigrant-rights organization Voces de la Frontera Action will be able to join a lawsuit over subpoenas from Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who is leading a partisan review into the 2020 presidential election.
In late December, Gableman issued a subpoena to the organization requesting communications with a number of election related groups, including the Center for Tech and Civic Life — an organization connected to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that provided grant funding to municipalities across Wisconsin to help with election administration that Republicans have highlighted as a potential source of fraud. The subpoena also requests any communications and contracts Voces may have had with Wisconsin government agencies.
After receiving the subpoena, Voces filed to intervene in a lawsuit that was already pending over subpoenas Gableman had issued to the Wisconsin Elections Commission and its administrator, Meagan Wolfe. The WEC has argued the subpoenas are overly broad and it is impossible to comply with them.
Both Voces and the WEC claim the subpoenas are unconstitutional.
On Wednesday, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Lanford allowed Voces to join the suit.
Attorneys for Gableman and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who is directing the review, argued in court that the constitutional concerns raised by the WEC and Voces are less important than their goal to finish the review — which began nearly a year ago — before the end of the current legislative session. George Burnett, an attorney for Vos and the Assembly, argued that taking time to sort out the legal concerns Gableman has stirred up will extend the length of the review.
“This is a legislative investigation of an important issue,” Burnett said. “And the Legislature has a limited term. The longer this matter drags on, the longer it is complicated, the more legal issues that are interjected, the more difficult it becomes to conclude this investigation, and if any legislation is appropriate, to introduce it.”
Lanford disagreed with Burnett’s assessment that constitutional problems should be set aside for the sake of hurrying Gableman along.
“Shouldn’t a constitutional challenge be something that should essentially rise above any desire that the investigation be concluded rapidly enough so the Legislature can act on it?” Lanford asked. “I mean, these are serious issues and infirmities that have been raised by the complaint and I’m not saying that, ultimately, those are going to bear out, but at least for purposes of the complaint, they’re alleging serious deficiencies and constitutional issues. And to say the court should hurry along, so that the Legislature can keep to a timeline in this investigation seems a little out of balance given the issues in this case.”
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