Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate votes to fire top elections official

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The GOP-controlled Wisconsin Senate voted Thursday to fire the state’s top elections official, setting up a likely legal battle in the state ahead of the 2024 election.

Democrats have argued the state Senate vote to oust nonpartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe from her position was not held properly and that they do not have the power to remove Wolfe from her role.

Republican leaders have been threatening to remove Wolfe for months over how she handled the 2020 election. They have falsely claimed she orchestrated a plan to rig the 2020 election in Wisconsin — a swing state President Biden carried in 2020 by nearly 21,000 votes.

A recent ruling by the state Supreme Court suggests Wolfe may be able to stay in office. The state’s highest court ruled last year that the lawmakers cannot replace an appointed official until that role is vacant, noting the end of a term is not a vacancy.

The election commissions reached a standstill in June on whether to nominate Wolfe for a second term as her first term ends. Three Republicans voted to nominate her, while the three Democrats abstained to prevent her nomination from going forward in the Senate.

If she was nominated by the bipartisan commissions but rejected by the Senate in a vote, she would effectively be removed from office. Because she was never nominated, the recent state Supreme Court ruling would suggest she can remain in office to maintain that role.

However, state Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said he interpreted the 3-0 commission’s vote as a unanimous nomination and proceeded with holding the vote, setting up a likely legal battle that could create instability before next year’s elections.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) blasted the Senate’s move and said Thursday he directed the state’s Justice Department to represent Wolfe so she can stay in her role.

“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,” he 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.

The Associated Press contributed.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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