A judge in Wisconsin ordered the state’s election commission Friday to release all documents it has relating to one of its Republican members and his role as one of 10 people posing as fake voters for former president in 2020 Donald Trump.
The lawsuit, brought by a labor leader represented by the liberal firm Law Forward, sought commission reports related to Robert Spindell and comments he made about his role as a bogus voter. Spindell is one of three members of the Republican Election Commission.
Fake voters gathered in Wisconsin and six other battlefield states where Trump was defeated in 2020, trying to vote for the former president, even though he lost. Republicans who participated in Wisconsin said they were trying to preserve Trump’s legal standing in case courts reversed his defeat.
The role of those fake voters, particularly in Wisconsin, was at the center of the federal indictment against Trump released this week. Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday to trying to reverse the results of his 2020 election loss.
Law Forward filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission in 2021 saying the fake voters were breaking the law. The commission voted unanimously in a closed session to dismiss that complaint, saying the fake voters did not violate election laws. Spindell did not shy away from considering the complaint, even though he voted as one of the bogus GOP voters.
The Wisconsin Justice Department agreed with Trump’s allies and bogus voters, concluding that the Republicans were legitimately trying to preserve his legal standing as courts had to decide whether he or Biden won the election.
In May, another state judge ordered the Election Commission to reconsider its vote to dismiss the complaint. Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington ruled that Spindell should not have participated in the initial discussion and vote because he was the target of the complaint.
The committee has not yet taken a new decision.
Law Forward alleged in her lawsuit that the commission failed to turn over documents requested multiple times under Wisconsin’s open records law. The company sought documents related to a comment Spindell made during the public portion of a November 2021 committee meeting, where he openly discussed his decision not to back down. The committee had only considered the request in closed session, which made Spindell’s comments unusual.
In particular, Law Forward requested notices of material from which Spindell appeared to be reading during the meeting. According to the lawsuit, the Election Commission provided a single document similar to what Spindell read, saying that Spindell had no other related documents.
The committee argued that the data is in Spindell’s possession, not the committee’s.
“This argument is nonsensical,” Dane County Circuit Judge Jacob Frost ruled Friday. “Records held by WEC commissioners are held by WEC and must be provided in response to an archive request.”
He ordered until Sept. 8 to “conduct a full review and produce all documents in his possession, whether held by staff or commissioners” that are not otherwise exempt from the data disclosure law.
Commission spokesperson Riley Vetterkind had no comment on the ruling.
Law Forward filed the suit on behalf of Paul Sickel, executive director of the Wisconsin State Council of the Service Employees International Union.
The company also filed another lawsuit against the 10 voters and Trump attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Jim Troupis seeking $2.4 million in damages. That case, which is pending, alleges that Trump and his allies conspired to reverse his loss in the state on the battlefield.