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Republicans move to impeach Meagan Wolfe, one week after Senate vote against her confirmation

The DOJ has filed a lawsuit challenging the vote to fire Wolfe as Wisconsin's top election official

Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, left, is seen during a September 2018 meeting of the Elections Commission
Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, left, is seen during a September 2018 meeting of the Elections Commission with then-Commissioner Dean Knudson. Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Watch

Five Republican lawmakers are moving to impeach Meagan Wolfe as Wisconsin’s top election administrator, one week after the state Senate voted to fire her — a vote that is being contested in court.

The GOP representatives circulated a resolution for co-sponsorship on Thursday that calls for Wolfe to be impeached from her post as administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, citing “maladministration during her tenure” and arguing Wolfe “promoted and encouraged” illegal voting behavior.

“This impeachment is proposed to save taxpayer funds and reaffirm the legislature’s authority to remove an administrator who has failed to adhere to existing statutes,” the resolution states.

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Wolfe issued a statement in response to the impeachment effort, saying the legislators were “willfully” distorting the truth.

“No matter how many times some politicians misrepresent my actions and how this agency works, it does not make what they’re saying true. Contrary to what’s said in this resolution, every major decision relating to the 2020 presidential election was made by the agency’s six bipartisan Commissioners in public meetings,” Wolfe stated. “It’s irresponsible for this group of politicians to willfully distort the truth when they’ve been provided the facts for years.”

A party-line vote in the state Senate last Thursday called for Wolfe’s ouster from the post. But Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul immediately filed a lawsuit saying that vote was unlawfully taken and has no standing.

That’s because of a winding saga that began this summer, when Wolfe did not step down from her position at the end of her term and the Wisconsin Elections Commission did not renominate her.

Kaul and other Democrats argue that — because of a legal precedent set by a conservative court regarding a Republican governor’s appointee — the lack of a nomination means Wolfe can stay in the post indefinitely.

Following the Senate vote, Wolfe said she would continue working unless and until a court told her not to.

“My position as administrator is, of course, subject to removal by the majority vote of the commission at any time,” she said last week. “In the meantime, unless a final determination of a court says otherwise, I will continue to serve as the administrator of the (Wisconsin Elections Commission).”

Wolfe does not write election policy. She communicates policy written by the Wisconsin Elections Commission to local clerks across the state. She nevertheless has become the face of criticism over how Wisconsin’s 2020 election played out, in which former President Donald Trump narrowly lost to President Joe Biden.

While that result has been confirmed by recounts, audits and investigations, Wolfe has weathered false claims of voter fraud for years. Some Republicans who voted against her last week cited those claims as evidence that Wolfe has lost the confidence of the voting public.

Thursday’s resolution was co-authored by five Republican members of the Assembly, some of whom have been outspoken deniers of the 2020 election outcome. Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, has called for Wisconsin’s 2020 election results to be decertified. Rep. Chuck Wichgers, R-Muskego, along with Brandtjen, were among 15 Wisconsin lawmakers who signed onto a letter asking former Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying those results, the day before the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Among more than a dozen accusations of impropriety, the resolution says Wolfe promoted a policy of the commission that allowed absentee ballot applications to be illegally altered during the 2020 election. That’s a reference to a process called “ballot curing,” in which clerks fix errors on absentee ballots, such as incomplete witness addresses. The elections commission established guidelines for ballot curing in 2016; that guidance went unchallenged until after Trump’s loss in 2020 and was struck down in 2022.

The resolution also cites the commission’s promotion of absentee ballot drop boxes. Although the state Supreme Court banned their use last year, they had been in place for years prior to the 2020 election, when absentee voting saw a dramatic uptick amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, connected the move to other recent threats by Wisconsin Republicans to impeach state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz.

“Legislative Republicans…are clearly willing to sink to incredible lows to cement their power and undermine the will of the people,” she said.

Impeachment of Wisconsin officials requires a simple majority in the Assembly and a two-thirds majority in the Senate. While Republicans hold those majorities — and every GOP member of the Senate voted against Wolfe’s confirmation last week — it’s unclear whether this resolution will go forward.