WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Oct. 3, Republicans on the Wisconsin state Senate’s elections committee voted along party lines against confirming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) appointment of Joseph Czarnezki, a former Milwaukee County clerk and former Democratic state Senator, to the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC). The matter now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate for a vote.
Evers appointed Czarnezki to WEC in May after Democratic Commissioner Julie Glancey stepped down. Glancey was originally appointed by then-Gov. Scott Walker (R) when the commission was created in 2016 and was recently reappointed by Evers. Czarnezki is currently completing Glancey’s term, which ends in May 2026. Gubernatorial appointees are able to serve in their respective roles without a formal confirmation from the state Senate. But, a vote by the chamber to reject an appointment amounts to firing that nominee.
Evers would be able to appoint a replacement if Czarnezki is removed from a list of nominees provided by the Wisconsin Democratic Party as Wisconsin statute requires that the vacancy be filled with another Democratic nominee to maintain the bipartisan split of WEC.
In response to the committee vote yesterday, Evers railed against the antics of the Senate Republicans, calling the atypical confirmation hearing “stupid politics.”
State Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D), one of the two Democrats on the Senate elections committee, explained that he is not worried that ousting Czarnezki would cause a temporary 3-2 Republican majority at WEC as “the governor can appoint faster than the Senate can fire, and there is going to be a Democratic former clerk in this position that the governor appoints off of a list provided by the Democratic Party.”
Highlighting the absurdity of the effort, a spokesperson for the governor, Britt Cudaback, contextualized the possible firing of the commissioner, stating, “There will be no daylight between a floor vote by Senate Republicans to reject the governor’s appointments and naming appointments to replace them.”
All of this is taking place as Republicans are embroiled in efforts — which are allegedly illegal and currently being challenged in court by Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) — to remove the state’s top elections official, Meagan Wolfe, from her role as WEC’s chief administrator.
Since 2020, Wolfe and Republican legislators have sparred over the conservative lawmakers’ dedication to unfounded and debunked election conspiracies related to the results of the 2020 presidential election, despite the fact that “every major decision relating to the 2020 presidential election was made by [WEC’s] six bipartisan Commissioners in public meetings.”
Late last month, five Republican Assembly members, known to be proud election deniers, circulated a resolution with 15 articles of impeachment for Wolfe. The 15 articles contain misleading or false claims about the state’s top election official and how election administration works in Wisconsin.
The state’s Republicans are fighting to remain in power heading into 2024. The legally dubious and absurd efforts come after two back-to-back electoral wins for Democrats in the past year. Evers’ three-point reelection margin was lauded as a landslide in the battleground state, though his victory was simultaneously reinforced and dwarfed by the victory of new liberal state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz with her 11-point margin just four months later.
Viewed as a referendum on the future of Wisconsin — with 1,021,822 voters opting for progress — the resounding election of Protasiewicz is also being challenged as the state’s Republicans threaten to impeach the justice if she does not recuse herself from two looming redistricting lawsuits. Speaker Vos has created a secret panel to explore the possibility.