Democrats and Republicans Clash Over Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator
While Democrats were still celebrating the success of their parliamentary move to keep embattled Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) Administrator Meagan Wolfe on the job, the GOP-controlled Senate did some maneuvering of its own to get rid of her.
The WEC had called a special meeting for June 27 to reappoint Wolfe for another four-year term, which would keep her in office during the 2024 presidential election.
At the meeting, all but one of the six-member commission, composed of three Republicans and three Democrats, praised Wolfe for her work since her appointment in 2018. The majority wanted her to stay on.
However, when it came time to vote on her reappointment, only the three Republican members voted in favor, while the three Democrats abstained. The motion failed due to the requirement of four affirmative votes.
Relying on a quirk in Wisconsin law, the Democrat commissioners refused to vote for Wolfe, fearing that her appointment would not be approved in the Republican-controlled Senate.
For nearly three years, senators have received numerous citizen complaints about the WEC’s handling of the 2020 and 2022 elections under Wolfe’s leadership.
Several senators and representatives have publicly opposed reappointing Wolfe, with some stating that she lacks the necessary votes for confirmation.
Wolfe’s critics argue that her past decisions have consistently favored Democrats and may have influenced Joe Biden’s narrow victory over Donald Trump in 2020.
The abstaining commissioners claim that since Wolfe’s term would expire on July 1 and no action was taken to appoint her or someone else, there would be no vacancy to fill, and therefore they lacked the authority to vote on the motion.
After the meeting, Commissioner Ann Jacobs, a Democrat, expressed her delight in an online post, stating, “Delighted to report that Wisc. Elections Administrator Meagan Wolfe will retain her position as administrator as we go into the 2024 election cycle. Wisconsin will be well-served by her professionalism and expertise!”
Democrats Want Wolfe to Run in the Next Presidential Election
By choosing not to vote to fill the position, the Democrat members of the WEC believe they have ensured Wolfe’s continued presence, while the Republican members’ votes have paved the way for her rejection and departure.
The Democrats base their tactic on a 2022 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, Kaul v. Prehn, which held that the expiration of an incumbent’s term does not constitute a vacancy in the case of a gubernatorial appointee.
The ruling allows the incumbent to legally remain in the position until a Senate-confirmed appointee is chosen.
By preventing the Senate from holding a confirmation vote, Wolfe could potentially stay in office indefinitely, a prospect that many Republicans oppose, arguing that the convoluted process undermines democracy and the will of the people.
It’s important to note that the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission is not appointed by the governor but by the commission with the “advice and consent of the Senate.”
GOP Senators Take Action
In a surprising move to assert the Senate’s advice and consent prerogatives, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) introduced a resolution considering Wolfe as officially nominated near the end of the day’s session on June 28.
Senate Resolution 3 of 2023 affirms that, pursuant to Senate Rules, Wolfe is considered a nominee.
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