Trump-tied group pushing for voting changes in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wisc. — A group formed to support former President Donald Trump’s agenda is working with Wisconsin Republicans on a ballot measure that would bypass the state’s Democratic governor to change how elections are run in the battleground state. 

The backing for a possible route around Gov. Tony Evers was revealed during a private meeting on elections hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which advocates conservative policies to state lawmakers in voting and other areas. Trump’s former White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told attendees that his new organization, the Center for Election Integrity, was working with elected officials and business leaders in Wisconsin “to figure out the best path” around Evers, who has said he will block GOP-backed election measures. 

“We feel as though the governor can’t do anything about it and it will become law,” Gidley said in a recording of the session obtained by The Associated Press. 

The strategy is similar to one already underway in Michigan. State Republicans there are gathering signatures to place a measure on the ballot that would tighten that state’s voting laws, an effort to get around Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto of a similar bill that passed the GOP-controlled state legislature. 

Bill McCoshen, head of the policy board for the conservative group Common Sense Wisconsin, said he met with Gidley in Milwaukee six weeks ago to discuss getting an elections proposal on the ballot.  

“I think they thought it was a good idea,” McCoshen said. “They haven’t made a commitment to us one way or the other.” 

McCoshen’s proposal would require elections to be run the same way across Wisconsin; early voting hours and days would have to be the same in every community, and some would have to change how they count absentee ballots.  

The proposal would also bar private groups from making large donations to the state’s heavily Democratic cities. 

Wisconsin Republicans have been angry about more than $10 million in election grants that went to more than 200 municipalities last year, the bulk of it going to the state’s five largest cities, which are all Democratic strongholds. The money came from $350 million in election donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. 

Under the amendment, money like that would have to be shared by all municipalities in the state. 

Gidley’s group is part of America First Policy Institute, an organization created during the Trump administration to promote the former president’s policies.  

The session where Gidley spoke occurred during the conservative council’s state and national policy summit in San Diego, California. 

The session reflects how election integrity has moved to the heart of the GOP agenda since Trump blamed his 2020 loss on fraud. During the session, participants heard from Cleta Mitchell, a prominent conservative attorney who advised the former president earlier this year.