The Wisconsin State Senate voted to remove Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe Thursday, The Hill reported. This move from the GOP-controlled legislature will likely face legal challenges, however.
Republicans in the state have been saying for years that Wolfe should be thrown out for her conduct during the 2020 presidential election. Some of accused her of planning to rig the the election in favor of President Joe Biden.
Wisconsin is a swing state and helped propel Biden to victory as he won the state by almost 21,000 votes. Although Wolfe's position is technically nonpartisan, Democrats have worked to keep her in place amid these cries for her ouster.
Wofle's first term has ended, but she is still in office due to a technicality in the state. The state Supreme Court ruled that there can be no vote to replace her unless her position is vacant, and an expired term is not considered a vacancy, according to the court.
This means that she can hold the seat indefinitely, which is something the GOP was hoping to avoid. In June, the election commissions attempted to nominate Wolfe for a second term, but the vote was an even split, with three Republicans voting in the affirmative and Democrats abstaining.
Had she been nominated, Republicans in the Senate would have had the opportunity to vote her out completely. Still, state Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu believes the fact that the commission's vote ended in 3-0 signals Wolfe's nomination to send the matter to the Senate.
This conflict will likely launch a legal battle that threatens to bog down the state's ability to certify the 2024 election. Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has ordered the state's Department of Justice to argue Wolfe's case so she can remain as the commissioner, a move that further inflames tensions.
Evers blamed the GOP in the state and accused them of trying to rig the election. "Wisconsin Republicans’ attempt to illegally fire Wisconsin’s elections administrator without cause today shows they are continuing to escalate efforts to sow distrust and disinformation about our elections, denigrate our clerks, poll workers, and election administrators, and undermine basic tenets of our democracy, including the peaceful transfer of power," Evers said in a statement.
"Just days after Republicans announced they want Legislature-picked, Legislature-approved map drawers to conduct redistricting, Republicans today demonstrated why they cannot be trusted with that important responsibility — because they will threaten, intimidate, punish, and even attempt to illegally fire anyone who stands in the way of their relentless pursuit to retain political power," he said. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has also taken up Wolfe's crusade and accused Republicans of being the ones to mess with elections.
"We have to recognize we’re up against a nationally coordinated, multifaceted, multi-year attempt to dismantle democracy in our country," Benson said, according to the Wisconsin Examiner. She claims Wisconsin and Michigan share a position "in the eye of the storm" surrounding election integrity.
"What happens in Wisconsin is really a microcosm for the battles that are playing out small and large around the country," Benson added. 'Michigan and Wisconsin are really closely aligned in our challenges facing democracy," the Michigan Democrat said.
"We’ve seen both of our states inundated with conspiracy theories and falsehoods, candidates promoting lies about our elections all to serve their political goals, and [actors in] both of our states try to overturn our election results." In 2018, Michigan changed the way congressional maps are drawn and turned the state Democratic for the first time in 40 years.
"What we found in Michigan is that speaking to voters, telling the truth, and working across state borders collectively to battle challenges that we’re facing together is key," Benson claimed. Of course, it's possible that the gerrymandering Democrats claimed was happening has simply been turned around in their favor instead.
The 2024 presidential election is going to be contentious, and people are going to be watching state election officials, given what happened in 2020. Even if there was zero fraud, the suspicion that comes from moves like those Benson and Wolfe make will do nothing to give voters confidence.