The Wisconsin Senate's elections committee was set to vote Monday on the future of the battleground state's top elections official, clearing the way for the full Republican-controlled Senate to vote on firing her as soon as Thursday.
Democrats have accused GOP leaders of improperly pushing through the confirmation process for nonpartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe after the commission's three Republicans and three Democrats deadlocked along party lines in a reappointment vote in June.
Monday's vote comes despite objections from the state's Democratic attorney general and the Legislature's own nonpartisan attorneys who have said that without a majority vote by the commission to reappoint Wolfe, the Senate cannot go forward with deciding whether to confirm or fire her.
In the absence of a majority vote by the commission, a recent Supreme Court ruling appears to allow Wolfe to stay in office indefinitely as a holdover. Conservatives have used that ruling to maintain control of key policy boards. If Wolfe's confirmation is rejected by the full Senate — a result that would normally carry the effect of firing her — the matter is likely to be resolved through a lawsuit.
Wolfe did not attend a public hearing the Senate elections committee held last month on her reappointment. That hearing attracted dozens of election skeptics who repeated widely debunked claims about the 2020 election and called for Wolfe to be fired or even arrested.
Conspiracy theorists falsely claim Wolfe was part of a plot to rig the 2020 election in favor of President Joe Biden, and some Senate Republicans have vowed to oust her before the 2024 presidential election. Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by nearly 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, an outcome that has withstood two partial recounts, a nonpartisan audit, a conservative law firm’s review and numerous state and federal lawsuits.
Elections observers have raised concerns that firing Wolfe or disputing her position through the 2024 election could encourage election skeptics who have already harassed and threatened election officials over the 2020 election.
Harm Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.