Sunday, December 4th, 2022
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MADISON — Republican lawmakers want to see heads roll at the scandal-plagued Wisconsin Elections Commission. The regulator’s chief and its commissioners insist they aren’t going anywhere.

So what’s next for WEC?

Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe fired back this week at Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) for calling on the agency head to resign. Vos shares that sentiment with many of his Republican colleagues. Wolfe lashed out, calling criticism against her management and the commission’s rulings “partisan politics at its worst.”

She did so even in the face of a damning state audit and a criminal investigation that found WEC repeatedly violated state election law.

“I think in some ways that they think I’m an easy target — I’m not,” Wolfe told reporters. “I think that anybody that’s looked at the integrity of the work that I’ve done, the dedication that I’ve given to this position, the support I’ve provided to our heroic local election officials … I don’t think that the claims have any basis.”

She added that she has “an obligation as the state’s nonpartisan chief election official to rise above” the criticism.

There was a bit of a calm after the storm and before a gathering political tornado coming Tuesday, as Republican lawmakers talked behind the scenes about the next steps in holding commission members and bureaucrats accountable.

Some lawmakers said it was hard to know what the next steps are until they get more information from three ongoing investigations into alleged misconduct and election law violations surrounding the 2020 presidential elections. Some more details could be coming soon, sources say. But local elections officials, particularly in Madison, have refused to cooperate.

One legislative aide told Empower Wisconsin that impeachment appears to be an unlikely option because it requires two-thirds support. Even with a healthy Republican majority, the Senate isn’t likely to get that kind of support for removing WEC officials.

“That will only embolden Wolfe and elevate her standing when she survives,” the source said, adding that the state needs an election reform-minded governor. Democrat Gov. Tony Evers has vetoed every election reform bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature this session.

Other Republican lawmakers are pushing their caucuses to do whatever it takes to remove Wolfe and commission members. That could first include a resolution of no confidence calling on them to resign, followed by legislative action.

State Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), who chairs the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, said Wolfe has no room to play the “partisan” card. The administrator should step down because “she’s doing a miserable job,” the lawmaker said.

“It’s not personal. It’s not political. We’re not picking on her, she’s incompetent,” said Brandtjen, who’s committee has spent the past few months looking into allegations of malfeasance in last November’s election.

Brandtjen pointed to the Legislative Audit Bureau report that found, among other concerns, WEC staff had not completed statutorily required post-election reviews of voting lists for several years. Critics say this kind of poor management isn’t merely administrative neglect, it’s criminal.

One legislative source said the Republican-led Legislature is “done with WEC.”

“We are going to reclaim our legislative power,” the source said.

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