Years After Stripping the Office of Its Powers, GOP Sees Secretary of State as Key to Controlling Elections

State Capitol dome interior



By christinalieffring

January 19, 2022

Four Republicans stumping for post see potential for diminishing, dissolving the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Wisconsin’s Secretary of State is a pretty sleepy position that has only gotten sleepier after it was stripped of its duties to monitor lobbying and investigate ethics violations by the Legislature under former Gov. Tommy Thompson. 

Which helps explain why the current Secretary, Doug La Follette, has managed to hold onto the job for over 40 years. Today the Secretary of State’s office mostly processes, publishes and applies the state seal to official documents. 

But the office has received renewed attention as Trump loyalists in several swing states—including Wisconsin—are hoping to turn the office into an avenue for taking control of election administration.

All four of Wisconsin’s GOP candidates have stated publicly that they want the Secretary of State to have a role in election administration. And many of the pro-Trump candidates plan to meet at an in-person “summit” on Jan. 29 according to the Guardian.

Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) did not state she would want to dissolve the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) but would want to “serve as a check” to the commission. Similarly Dmitry Becker of New Berlin said he would want the WEC to be subsumed under the Secretary of State.

Jay Shroeder, a Neenah businessman who ran for Secretary of State in 2018, said in his campaign announcement and website that he supports proposed legislation to dissolve the WEC—a proposal Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said they do not support. 

Shroeder cited Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling allegations of voter fraud against the commision  for creating emergency rules for nursing home voting during the pandemic. 

Justin Schmidtka has demanded the WEC be dismantled and shared former Pres. Donald Trump’s press release falsely claiming the election was stolen. He’s also backed Rep. Timothy Ramthun’s (R-Campbellsport) calls for the state to decertify the 2020 election results. 

The primary election is set for Aug. 9, and the Republican nominee will face La Follette in the Nov. 8 general election.




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