WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, in the wake of a multimedia pressure campaign launched by an election denier-run group, Wisconsin’s Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos (R) advanced an impeachment resolution for the state’s top elections official, Meagan Wolfe.
The 15 articles of impeachment — which are riddled with conspiracy theories and false claims — were introduced six weeks ago by five Republican Assembly members. The impeachment resolution requires a majority vote in the Assembly and the support from two-thirds of the Senate to remove Wolfe, who oversees the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC).
With over 1,800 municipalities all administering their own elections, Wisconsin has one of the most decentralized election systems in the country. WEC was created by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2016 to better run the states’s elections and support the almost two thousand municipal election clerks. All commission actions require a four-vote majority and as Democratic Commissioner Ann Jacobs pointed out in response to Vos’ most recent move, Wolfe only administers on behalf of the commission.
One of those five members is Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R) whose vehement election denialism had her barred from private caucus meetings with other Republicans and labeled “inept” by party leadership last year. Also a part of this “gaggle of well-known election deniers,” as described by Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D), is Rep. Chuck Wichgers, who, along with Brandtjen and other lawmakers from across the country, signed a letter asking former Vice President Mike Pence to delay the certification of the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021.
As a nonpartisan elections official, Wolfe was nominated to lead the WEC by the agency itself and confirmed with unanimous support by the Republican-led Wisconsin Senate in 2019. WEC is a bipartisan commission formed in 2016 to serve as the state’s election regulatory agency and carries out a wide range of election administration-related functions for the state.
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, as Wolfe has attested, “every major decision relating to the 2020 presidential election was made by [WEC’s] six bipartisan Commissioners in public meetings.”
In a statement responding to the resolution, Wolfe slammed the accusations levied against her: “The claims in this resolution have been thoroughly examined through numerous audits, investigations, and lawsuits, and they have shown that Wisconsin’s elections are run with integrity. It’s irresponsible for this group of politicians to willfully distort the truth when they’ve been provided the facts for years.”
Jacobs hedged, “Why are the conspiracy theorists so fixated on Wolfe? They want a villain to explain why their candidate (Trump) lost. They cannot live with the fact that Trump got fewer votes in Wisconsin! So instead they create a fantasy where a single person in WI caused his loss.”
After sitting dormant for six weeks, the resolution’s movement comes following a six-figure ad buy from a group called the Wisconsin Elections Committee — not to be confused with the state’s agency. The conservative activist group is run by Adam Steen, Vos’ unsuccessful primary challenger, and election denier Harry Wait, who fraudulently requested absentee ballots for Vos and Racine Mayor Cory Mason (D) last year. After former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman suggested Vos’ inaction could be targeted, the group bought the ads attacking Wolfe and calling for Vos to be primaried if he did not continue the removal of Wolfe.
In a statement yesterday, Vos insisted that there was no connection between the ad campaign calling for his ousting if he does not continue pursuing the removal of Wolfe and the advancement of the impeachment articles.
Late last month, a Dane County trial court judge ruled that the state Senate’s vote to remove Wolfe had no legal effect and any further attempts to remove the administrator in that manner would not be legal. The ruling did not specifically mention impeachment proceedings. However, in recent court filings, Vos and Senate Republicans admitted that the efforts to remove Wolfe were “symbolic,” though Vos’ admission seems to contradict this most recent action.