Five Republican state representatives are seeking co-sponsorship on resolution to impeach embattled Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, who was recently fired by the GOP-controlled state Senate but refuses to leave the post.
“Administrator Meagan Wolfe’s impeachment is warranted due to her maladministration during her tenure as the Administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, as evidenced by the 15 issues outlined in the attached resolution,” states the co-sponsorship memo sent to Assembly members on Thursday.
Senate Republicans, who hold a supermajority, earlier this month voted along party lines to reject Wolfe’s nomination for a second term, firing the controversial state elections administrator after a stormy tenure in office.
Far-left Attorney General Josh Kaul quickly filed a pre-packaged lawsuit following the vote, arguing the Senate’s action has “no legal effect.” It’s an interesting interpretation of the state Constitution, which, like the U.S. Constitution, vests in the Senate the exclusive authority in “advice and consent” on nominees serving in the executive branch.
Wolfe has pledged to remain as administrator until the litigation is settled.
“Administrator Wolfe has chosen to challenge her removal by the Senate in court, despite clear statutory provisions (15.61(1)(b)1) for her removal,” the lawmakers, led by state Representative Janelle Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), state in the memo. “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.”
In an interview with The Wisconsin Daily Star, Brandtjen, a long-time critic of Wolfe’s handling of election law, said the people of Wisconsin deserve a Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator who is going to “accurately follow the law.”
“Meagan Wolfe has been in the position too long and has made too many errors and has put the [local election clerks] in a precarious position between following what WEC says and what is the law,” Brandtjen said.
Several of the Wisconsin Elections Commission guidance documents and rules have been found to be in violation of state election laws. Among them, WEC staff’s guidance told Wisconsin’s 1,800-plus local elections clerks they could widely use absentee ballot drop boxes during the hotly contested 2020 presidential election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court found the use of such drop boxes to be a violation of state election law.
Wolfe has often been accused by Republicans of partisan actions in administering what is supposed to be a non-partisan elections commission.
She referred a long-time Democratic Party operative to local elections officials, according to emails uncovered through open records requests. The operative, records show, had access to absentee ballot boxes on the night of the election and worked closely with the Green Bay and Milwaukee election offices — thanks to millions of dollars in so-called “safe elections” grants funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The proposed impeachment resolution cites 15 articles, each a charge of “misadministration” under the law. First among them, Wolfe promoted and encouraged illegal alterations of absentee ballot applications, a process known as “curing,” during the 2020 presidential election.
Wolfe did support the continuation of WEC guidance first adopted during the 2016 presidential election. The guidance was counter to election law, stating, “If a certificate is missing the address of a witness, the ballot may not be counted.” Clerks may reach out to the voter to correct the missing information, but clerks may not fill in the missing information.
“This maladministration of ‘curing,’ promoted and encouraged by Administrator Wolfe, created disparities in how voters were treated, allowing some deficient ballots to be ‘cured’ while others were not,” the resolution alleges.
According to the resolution, Wolfe also neglected to safeguard Wisconsin voters’ personal data, played a role in enabling unlawful absentee voting in long-term care facilities without special voting deputies, and directed clerks to permit a “campaign volunteer” or other agents to submit absentee ballot applications on behalf of voters.
In the latter case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court emphasized that Wisconsin law does not allow agents or anyone other than the voter to submit the absentee ballot directly to a clerk’s office.
WEC officials could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Kaul and other liberals insist the Senate vote to fire Wolfe isn’t valid because the six-member Wisconsin Elections Commission did not come up with a 4-2 majority vote to send Wolfe’s nomination to a Senate confirmation vote.
The commission’s three Republicans instead approved a motion to do so 3-0, while the Democrats abstained.
It was clearly a procedural game played by the Democrats, believing they could keep Wolfe in the administrator post after her term expired in June. But Republicans assert the 3-0 vote is the majority needed, and the Senate called the confirmation vote.
State Reps. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha), Elijah Behnke (R-Oconto), Ty Bodden (R-Hilbert), and Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego) joined Brandtjen on the memo seeking co-sponsors for the impeachment resolution. Sources told The Daily Star that Republican senators are soon to ask Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) to bring a resolution to impeach Wolfe to the Assembly floor.
Vos has got his hands full with calls to impeach far-left Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz, who began her 10-year term on August 1. Vos and other Republicans are weighing that possibility if Protasiewicz doesn’t recuse herself from a legislative redistricting case before the state high court, which now, thanks to Protasiewicz’s election victory, is controlled by a 4-3 liberal majority.
Republicans said they believe Protasiewicz signaled how she would rule when she made biased comments about the GOP-crafted legislative maps, asserting that the maps were “rigged” while campaigning for the bench. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin also spent a whopping $10 million electing her.
Democrats have unleashed an expensive war to literally attempt to silence Republicans who even talk about impeachment. The state party earlier this month launched a $4 million campaign to target Republicans who speak of impeaching Protasiewicz.
The liberal American Oversight filed a complaint on Thursday with the Dane County District Attorney alleging that a panel of former Supreme Court justices created by Vos to advise on the potential impeachment of Protasiewicz is in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law.
“Legislative Republicans are completely out of control. From threatening to impeach a duly elected Supreme Court Justice to now targeting our nonpartisan election administrator, they are clearly willing to sink to incredible lows to cement their power and undermine the will of the people,” Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) said in a statement.
Impeachment requires a simple majority vote to move the resolution to the Senate. The upper house is responsible for trying the case. If two-thirds of the senators present vote to convict the elected official, the official is convicted or impeached, according to the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Council.
Brandtjen, who served as former chairwoman of the Assembly Campaign and Elections Commission that uncovered a trove of records on the Elections Commission’s handling of the 2020 election, said impeachment of Wolfe is long past due.
“I would say this needs to be done,” the lawmaker said. “The benefit to the taxpayers is this should not be a prolonged court case. This could be done next month with commitments from the Senate.”
“I hope this nightmare can finally come to an end,” Brandtjen added.
– – –
M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Janel Brandtjen” by Representative Janel Brandtjen. Photo “Meagan Wolfe” by Wisconsin Elections Commission. Background Photo “Wisconsin State Capitol” by 12019.