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Wisconsin’s Election Official Faces Imminent Removal After 2020 Election

Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of‍ the Wisconsin Election Commission ‍(WEC), has suffered another setback in her struggle to hang ⁣on ⁢to her office as the chief⁢ election official.

On Sept. 11, the five-member state Senate Committee on⁤ Shared Revenue, Elections, and Consumer Protection ​voted 3-1-1 to recommend that the full Senate hand ⁢Ms. Wolfe her walking ‌papers over allegations ‍of partisan behavior within her role.

Voting against Ms. Wolfe’s nomination were Republican Sens. Dan Knodl, Dan Feyen, and Romaine Quinn. Sen. Mark⁣ Spreitzer, a Democrat, was the lone committee member to vote to reappoint Ms. Wolfe to a‍ second four-year term. Democrat Sen. Jeff Smith abstained.

⁢ ​ ⁤The members cast their votes by paper ballots with no discussion.

A Long Listening Session

The committee made its decision after conducting a four-hour-long public hearing on Aug. 29, in which​ a ⁤scathing critique of WEC’s introduction of new policies and practices—especially its management of the 2020 election—was presented by the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau.

Following the audit report, a parade ⁣of Wisconsinites from all over the state took the witness chair to​ speak against Ms. Wolfe continuing on as WEC ⁤administrator.

Most of her detractors told the hearing that, based on what they consider her mishandling of the 2020 election, ordinary ​citizens have lost trust in Ms. Wolfe’s ability to fairly administer the upcoming 2024 presidential election.

In 2020, Ms. Wolfe ‍had a hand in making and ⁢implementing decisions ⁣that many Republicans worry may have helped Joe Biden eke out a 0.63 percent victory over then-President Donald Trump—a margin of just 20,682 votes out of the 3.3 ‌million cast.

Meagan ⁣Wolfe, the head of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, speaks during a virtual​ press conference on Nov. 4, 2020. (Wisconsin Elections Commission via Reuters)

A Catalog of Missteps

Some of the controversial actions Ms. Wolfe presided over include the installation of mail-in ballot drop boxes—later declared illegal by the Wisconsin Supreme Court; the relaxing of signature verification standards and voter identification requirements; expanding the definition of ⁤”indefinitely confined” absentee voters to include thousands of ineligible people; and allowing elderly nursing home residents to receive mail-in ballots⁣ without them ‍being delivered and returned by specially designated election officers,‌ as ‌required by Wisconsin law.

Those speaking at the hearing‍ in favor of Ms. Wolfe‍ commended her for her competence, experience, and responsiveness to the needs of local election officials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several supporters ⁣said it would be difficult for localities​ to manage the upcoming 2024 presidential election without Ms. Wolfe’s expertise.

Concerning⁤ the WEC’s missteps and legal problems,​ her supporters contended that she was merely carrying out the⁤ wishes of her superiors.

By law, WEC is a body composed of three Republicans and three Democrats. It was created by the state legislature⁤ in 2016.

In recent letters and memos released to the public in which Ms. Wolfe defended herself, she asserted the same argument ​about her subordinate⁢ role. But the statute establishing the WEC states in pertinent part: ‍“The elections commission⁢ shall⁤ be under the direction⁢ and supervision of an administrator …”

A​ Political Stratagem?

Just before⁤ Ms. Wolfe’s term ‍was set to expire at midnight‍ on June 30, the WEC met for the ‍purpose of reappointing her to another​ term.

By statute, four votes are ⁤needed to move her appointment forward for confirmation by the Wisconsin State Senate. Ms. Wolfe only mustered three—surprisingly, they ​were all from the Republican members.

Aware that Ms. Wolfe had worn⁢ out her welcome among ⁢the Republican supermajority in the Senate and that she was headed there ⁤for a defeat, the three WEC Democrat members decided to abstain.

They explained⁣ that while they ⁤supported Ms. Wolfe, the parliamentary tactic of⁢ abstaining might enable them to save her ‌from almost certain ​rejection by the Senate.

In May 2019, Ms. Wolfe was unanimously confirmed by that same ​body.

WEC’s three Democrat members are​ now trying to keep the Republican legislative majority from ousting Ms. Wolfe by contending that because she failed to get four⁤ votes from WEC, she has not been formally nominated and therefore, there is no ‌vacancy and no valid nomination for the Senate to advise and consent on.

Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of ‌the Milwaukee election commission, collects the count from absentee‍ ballots from a voting machine in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Nov. 4, 2020. (Scott Olson/Getty‍ Images)

GOP Resolve

The parliamentary move by unelected WEC commissioners to stymie the Senate has led some Republican lawmakers to assert that such an action thwarts the will of the people ⁢as expressed ​through their elected representatives.

Speaking for the GOP majority,⁤ Mr. Knodl, ⁢the committee’s chairman stated, “We ‌will ⁤not abdicate the Senate’s authority.”

The day after the ​WEC’s Democrat ‌members ⁢abstained, the ​Senate passed a resolution on a part



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