Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Meagan Wolfe speaks about election processes days before the 2022 midterm election. (Screenshot)
A Republican-controlled Senate committee voted Monday not to approve the rehiring of Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) Administrator Meagan Wolfe. A majority on the committee sided with prominent election conspiracy theorists over the objections of the state’s election officials, in a decision that moves the fight over Wolfe’s reappointment one step closer to legal action.
Since the 2020 presidential election, Wolfe has been subject to partisan attacks as she’s become the face of many Republican complaints about Wisconsin’s election administration. Wolfe was originally appointed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and her initial four-year term expired in June. In a procedural move, the three Democrats on the six-member commission abstained from a vote on her reappointment. The abstentions prevented the body from obtaining the four votes required under state law to nominate a WEC administrator, keeping the question from being forwarded to the state Senate for confirmation.
The Democrats’ move is attempting to take advantage of a precedent set by the state Supreme Court last year which states appointees to state positions can stay in their post indefinitely so long as their replacement is not confirmed by the Senate. Republicans have used the precedent to hold onto posts on the state’s policy making boards and commissions.
Despite the Democrats’ move to keep Wolfe’s reappointment out of the Senate, Republicans have moved forward with confirmation proceedings anyway.
On Monday, the Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection voted 3-1 along party lines, with Brunswick Democratic Sen. Jeff Smith abstaining, not to recommend her confirmation to the full Senate. The committee took the vote despite warnings from Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul and the Legislature’s own nonpartisan attorneys that the issue is not properly before the Senate.
At a confirmation hearing for Wolfe late last month, the committee’s chair, Sen. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), disregarded Democratic complaints that the nomination wasn’t properly before the body as he presided over a hearing in which dozens of prominent election deniers testified against Wolfe with baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), who cast the sole vote in favor of Wolfe’s confirmation, said in a statement that the Republicans are wasting taxpayer money in a futile effort to attack the state’s election administration.
“As I said when the Committee first met to discuss Administrator Wolfe’s continued service to the people of Wisconsin, this nomination is not before us and Senate Republicans are on a path that will waste taxpayer money and create unnecessary controversy around our elections while attacking qualified, hard-working election officials,” he said.
The issue of Wolfe’s reappointment is likely to be decided by a court after potential action by the full Senate.
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