The Wisconsin Democratic Party is initiating legal challenges against the state’s Republicans after they voted to remove the ostensibly nonpartisan top election official in the crucial swing state.
Megan Wolfe, the Wisconsin elections administrator, faced potential termination by the Republican-majority state senate, a move that could have significant implications for the administration of elections in 2024. However, the state’s Democratic party contends that this action is illegitimate.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit, asserting that Senate Republicans lack the authority to remove Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe and accusing them of undermining the state’s electoral processes.
Wisconsin’s political landscape is characterized by deep partisan divisions, with Republicans controlling the Legislature. There have even been discussions about impeaching a newly elected Supreme Court justice before she presided over a case and redrawing the state’s electoral maps to favor the Republican party.
Ongoing disputes related to the 2020 election have fueled debates over the leadership of the elections agency. This uncertainty poses challenges for the state’s 1,800+ local clerks responsible for conducting elections. Some election skeptics have alleged that Wolfe played a role in manipulating the 2020 vote in Wisconsin. Citing these skeptics, Republican leaders justified their decision with a 22-11 party-line vote.
The 2020 election saw Joe Biden prevail over Donald Trump by nearly 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, a result that has been upheld through recounts, audits, reviews, and legal proceedings. Replacing Wolfe with a less experienced administrator or continuing to challenge her position before the 2024 race could increase instability during a critical presidential race, especially considering the expected pressure, harassment, and threats faced by election workers.
Democratic Governor Tony Evers criticized Wisconsin Republicans for attempting to dismiss the elections administrator without cause, accusing them of sowing distrust and disinformation about elections and undermining democratic principles.
In response, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul initiated legal action against Republican legislative leaders to have the Senate’s vote declared legally ineffective, ensuring Wolfe’s continued leadership of the elections commission.
Republicans proposed a resolution urging the elections commission to appoint an interim administrator in place of Wolfe.
The bipartisan elections commission reached an impasse in June over Wolfe’s nomination for a second four-year term. Senate Republicans proceeded with the vote in June without a formal nomination from the commission.
This interpretation of unanimous nomination has been challenged by nonpartisan legislative attorneys and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who argue that the law explicitly requires nominations from at least four commissioners.
Wolfe chose not to attend a Senate committee hearing on her reappointment, citing a letter from Kaul confirming her leadership of the elections agency. During the hearing, some of the state’s most vocal election skeptics reiterated their claims about the 2020 election, and many of them celebrated when the vote passed.
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A significant portion of Republican grievances against Wolfe revolves around decisions made by the elections commission, which Wolfe executed. Some Republicans have considered abolishing or restructuring the elections commission since the 2020 election.
Wolfe has served in various prestigious positions in the field of elections, including as the president of the National Association of State Election Directors and the chair of the bipartisan Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which assists states in maintaining accurate voter rolls. Her tenure spans over a decade, including her time as the head of the Government Accountability Board, the predecessor to the elections commission.