The future of Wisconsin’s top elections official was up for a vote Tuesday amid Republican calls for the nonpartisan administrator of the statewide elections commission to resign over how she ran the 2020 presidential contest.
The vote on whether to reappoint Meagan Wolfe could determine who is in charge of elections in a battleground state so narrowly divided that four of the past six presidential elections in Wisconsin have been decided by less than a percentage point. Wolfe has staunchly defended the decisions she’s made and fought back against false claims of election fraud, including those made by former President Donald Trump.
‘When your constituents challenge you about the integrity of Wisconsin elections, tell them the truth,’ she wrote to lawmakers just days before the vote on her reappointment. ‘When people perpetuate false claims about our election systems, push back publicly. Election officials cannot carry the burden of educating the public on elections alone.’
The decision on Wolfe’s future rests with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, whose six members are evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, leaving open the possibility for a split along party lines. A partisan deadlock could set in motion months of uncertainty over who will oversee elections in the swing state.
A recent Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling would apparently allow Wolfe to continue as administrator, even after her term ends on Saturday, until a replacement is appointed.
Wolfe has served as the state’s elections administrator since 2018 and has become one of the most respected elections leaders in the nation. She defended her record in a letter to state lawmakers, while earlier calling on commissioners to vote for the option they believe offers the most stability for Wisconsin elections even if that’s not her.
‘There is no substitute for my decade-plus of experience in helping run Wisconsin elections at the state level,’ she wrote in a letter to local election officials.
Whoever the elections commission appoints would need to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled state Senate.
Some Republican state senators have already vowed to vote against Wolfe, who has sparred with them over election conspiracy theories on numerous occasions. If a commission appointee is rejected by the Senate, then commissioners would need to make a new appointment within 45 days or else a legislative committee controlled by Republicans could choose the next administrator.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu wouldn’t say Tuesday whether he would support confirming Wolfe or rejecting her, saying the Senate was waiting to see whether the commission votes to reappoint her.
The commission’s vote comes as a divided GOP struggles to move past election lies that Trump and his followers have promoted since his loss to President Joe Biden in 2020. Republican state lawmakers across the country have sought to expand their control over elections in recent years, and far-right candidates have won seats in local government with platforms built on election skepticism.
But by and large, election denialism has hurt the GOP. Most candidates in 2022 in swing states including Wisconsin who supported overturning Trump’s defeat lost. A draft Republican National Committee report obtained by The Associated Press earlier this year reviewing the party’s performance in recent elections called for candidates to stop ‘ relitigating previous elections.’
In Wisconsin, the outcome of the 2020 election has withstood two partial recounts, a nonpartisan audit, a conservative law firm’s review, numerous state and federal lawsuits, and a Republican-ordered review that found no evidence of widespread fraud before the investigator was fired. The GOP-controlled Legislature has rejected attempts to decertify the results.