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Vote clears path for Meagan Wolfe to be fired from top elections administrator post

Wisconsin Democratic Attorney General has called the entire Senate process illegitimate, and court challenges are expected

A ballot submitted by Sen. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, recommending confirmation of Meagan Wolfe to a second term as administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission
A ballot submitted by Sen. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, recommending confirmation of Meagan Wolfe to a second term as administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Spreitzer and other Democrats have called the entire Senate process illegitimate. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Sen. Mark Spreitzer

A vote in a Wisconsin Senate committee clears a path for Wisconsin’s chief elections administrator to be fired as early as this week — a path that Democrats say has been illegitimate from the jump.

The Wisconsin Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection held a vote Monday on whether to approve the confirmation of Meagan Wolfe to a second term as administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The committee’s three Republicans voted against Wolfe’s confirmation. One of the Democrats voted for it, and one Democrat abstained from the vote.

Sen. Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, did not respond to Wisconsin Public Radio’s questions about whether he will schedule a full confirmation hearing about Wolfe. The Senate is next due to convene on Thursday. In theory, that means Wolfe’s nomination could be taken up then.

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The two committee Democrats shared common reasoning for their different decisions: both say Wolfe’s nomination is not properly before the Senate, and therefore should not be going through a standard confirmation process.

Meagan Wolfe
Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Elections Commission

The committee’s chair, Sen. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, did not comment to WPR. But on Friday, he told reporters in a statement that he was following his constitutional duty by scheduling the committee process.

At issue is an unprecedented application of a state Supreme Court decision that found if an appointed officer does not step down from their position, there is no vacancy to fill.

Attorney General Josh Kaul has said that applies to Wolfe, whose first term expired on July 1. But she has been operating in a holdover position ever since the Wisconsin Elections Commission deadlocked on a decision to renominate her.

Whether or when that happens, court challenges are expected, as Kaul and others have said the Senate cannot consider a nomination that was never put forward by the elections commission.

Kaul did not respond to WPR’s questions about whether his office plans to file suit.

Wolfe has served as the state’s top elections official since 2019, when she was unanimously confirmed. She has weathered attacks about the outcome of the 2020 election and several Senate Republicans have said they will not vote to reconfirm her. Failing to acquire a majority of votes in the GOP-held Senate would effectively oust her, pending court challenges.

In a statement, Sen. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said he voted to approve Wolfe’s confirmation to signal his support for the work she has done overall, but that he plans to challenge the overall legitimacy of the Senate process.

“Senate Republicans are on a path that will waste taxpayer money and create unnecessary controversy around our elections while attacking qualified, hard-working election officials,” he said. “(T)he Senate’s decision to move this illegitimate process forward is not supported by the law and is not the path forward for elections in our state.”

Republicans on the committee told reporters they voted against Wolfe’s confirmation because she did not appear before a public hearing earlier this month.

“Two weeks ago when the committee met to hear testimony on Ms. Wolfe’s appointment, she didn’t bother to show up to her own public hearing,” said Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, in a statement. “Elections are at the foundation of our democracy and it is important that every citizen can trust that their vote will matter. This hearing made it clear to me that under Ms. Wolfe’s leadership, too many Wisconsinites don’t have this trust.”

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