Republican lawmakers ask judge to demand WEC appoint new administrator

By: - November 9, 2023 12:48 pm

Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe speaks at a virtual press conference after the state Senate voted to fire her on Sept. 14. (Screenshot)

Republican legislative leaders have asked a Dane County judge to rule that the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) has a duty to appoint a new administrator. 

The Republicans made the argument after the state Department of Justice argued in a new legal filing that the commission has the option of appointing a new commissioner but doesn’t have to because Meagan Wolfe, the current holder of the position, remains in office. Republicans argued that this statement contradicts previous statements by Democratic members of the commission that the body couldn’t appoint a new administrator because Wolfe remained in office so there wasn’t a vacancy. 

The DOJ contends that just having the option to make an appointment does not make it an obligation for the commission. 

In June, the three Democratic members of the commission abstained from a vote reappointing Wolfe to the position after the expiration of her four-year term in an effort to keep her in the post. They argued the move would keep her in her job because state law requires four votes to advance the nomination. 

During a hearing, Commissioner Mark Thomsen said “I don’t think we have the ability under current law to reappoint because there is no vacancy.”

The Republican-held Senate moved forward, voting in September to fire her. That vote led to the lawsuit in which Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul argued she should be allowed to remain on the job. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the DOJ arguments in the lawsuit contradict what Democratic commissioners have said. 

“Instead of misleading Wisconsinites and casting doubt on election administration, the Democrat-appointed commissioners should do their job, appoint an administrator, and save taxpayers this needless litigation,” LeMahieu said.

In the lawsuit, Republicans admitted that the vote to fire Wolfe was merely “symbolic,” which Democrats have pointed out is different from the public statements LeMahieu and Vos have made about the power of that action. 

In a brief filed earlier this week, the DOJ asked Dane County Judge Ann Peacock to issue a permanent injunction to prevent Republican lawmakers from acting to remove Wolfe from the job.

Republicans have also been pushing articles of impeachment against Wolfe.

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.