The newly elected chairman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission said Monday he hopes to help restore voter confidence in the state’s election, while declining to say whether he thinks President Joe Biden has defeated the former President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
Republican attorney Don Millis was named to the WEC on June 8 by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Two days later, the six-member council chose him as the new president over fellow Republican Bob Spindell, who was one of 10 Republicans who tried to cast fake Electoral College ballots for Trump.
Millis takes the place of Dean Knudson, who abruptly resigned as board commissioner last month, moments before a scheduled vote to choose a new chairman. At the time, Knudson said members of the Republican Party told him they did not want him to lead the body. Knudson criticized Republicans for not accepting that Trump lost the 2020 election.
During an appearance Monday on WPR’s “The Morning Show,” Millis said he wanted to “return to a time when people could rely on or trust the electoral process.” He said “safeguards” such as voter identification and a statewide voter registration did not prevent disputed presidential election results in 2016 and 2020.
“I think there’s less trust in trust than elections, election results reflect the real vote than at any time in our history,” Millis said.
Millis outlined his ideas for using federal funding to increase audits of voting machines after the election. He said his goal would be a 10% audit of voting machines statewide after each general election.
“It’s a process where you rerun the ballots and then count the ballots to see what the error rate (is) is,” Millis said.
In 2018 and 2020, these random audits covered about 5% of voting materials statewide. No audit found any problems or anomalies with the checked machines.
“There are several reasons for (the audit),” Millis said. “One is to make sure the machines are working properly. The other is educational, because despite the best efforts of our clerks, people often won’t make the marks as they should.”
Millis previously served on the WEC in 2016 shortly after it was created and replaced by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board. Millis was nominated at the time by then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who has since become a member of Congress.
Millis also served on the Wisconsin Elections Board decades ago as a representative for former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. That board was replaced by the GAB in part because Republicans were unhappy with a move by that agency that went against their gubernatorial nominee, then U.S. Representative Mark Green. In 2006, Millis was the Green Campaign Advocate.
Millis said he was awaiting a final report from Michael Gableman, the former state Supreme Court justice leading a Republican inquiry into the 2020 election, before commenting on the election results. Gableman called for the elimination of the WEC. He has become one of the leading voices amplifying Trump’s false claims that he has won the 2020 election. While Gableman has urged lawmakers to consider decertifying the election, election law experts say the move is impossible.
Millis said he is also awaiting the resolution of several lawsuits against the WEC regarding the election results, as well as a state Supreme Court ruling regarding the use of mail-in ballot boxes.
“The 2020 election involves all sorts of things,” Millis said. “All I know about the 2020 election, really, is what I’ve read in the news, newspapers and online.”
Millis said complaints about the 2020 election “should be investigated.”
“I’m certainly interested in pursuing anything, any complaint, where there’s an allegation of fraud or a violation of law,” Millis said.
President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes — a margin similar to several other statewide elections in recent years.
Millis said he was open to tighter requirements for returning mail-in ballots. Supporters against a circuit court ruling requiring Wisconsin voters to physically return an absentee ballot themselves said the rule would prevent many Wisconsinites with disabilities from voting.
“We want to create uniformity across the state so everyone has the same access to early voting and mail-in voting, and we want to do that in a fair way,” Millis said. “We don’t want to unreasonably restrict people’s access to the ballot box… But we do want to maintain the integrity of the election, so I would like to know a bit more about these proposals and what the effect would be.”
Millis was less receptive to the idea of using paper ballots in Wisconsin elections and having them counted by hand. Wisconsin Republicans backed the idea at their state convention last month.
“It’s going to be very expensive,” Millis said. “The other logistical problem, and I’m not saying it can’t be overcome, is the time it takes to do it, especially with a primary election…doing a manual count of all this will take time.”
Millis replaces Democrat Ann Jacobs as president. The WEC President is required to change parties every two years.