‘Scapegoat’: Republicans’ Election Denial Prompts Effort to Fire Top Elections Official

By Pat Kreitlow

September 11, 2023

“I think that it’s largely out of a desire to find an explanation for Donald Trump’s loss other than fewer people voted for him than Joe Biden,” Ann Jacobs, one of the Democratic commissioners on the Wisconsin Elections Commission told Politico.

Members of the Senate Elections Committee voted Monday to reject the renomination of Meagan Wolfe to serve a new term as administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, recommending that the full Senate also vote against her—a move that would, in normal instances, fire her.

But this is not a normal instance. No renomination actually exists.

Senators do not have any measure  from the Elections Commission to vote on because the commission hasn’t passed any motion  related to Wolfe that had the support of four of its six members. (When one of the three Republican members recently moved to hold a vote on renomination, the three Democratic members abstained and denied the motion the majority vote required by law for it to be sent to the Senate.)

Despite the lack of a legal renomination, Senate Republicans put one before the committee—and held a public hearing two weeks ago that featured a parade of conspiracy theorists repeating long-discredited talking points about the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin, won by President Joe Biden.

The move–which is part of a GOP plot to push Wolfe out because she was the face of the 2020 election that Republicans refused to accept they lost –drew immediate blowback that was picked up by national media.

“I think that it’s largely out of a desire to find an explanation for Donald Trump’s loss other than fewer people voted for him than Joe Biden,” Ann Jacobs, one of the Democratic commissioners on the WEC told Politico. “She is the chief elections officer, she offers a face to the conspiracy theories.”

“All of the misinformation and disinformation about voter fraud sort of just got blamed on Meagan Wolfe,” former Republican state Sen. Kathy Bernier told The Guardian. Bernier, a former Chippewa County clerk, had chaired the Senate Elections Committee after the 2020 election and broke with supporters of former President Donald Trump in recognizing that no serious fraud has ever been shown to have occurred. 

Bernier is now a Wisconsin leader for the bipartisan group Keep Our Republic—and described Wolfe as a “scapegoat.”

Until recently, Wolfe would have been expected to step down from her duties when her most recent term expired at the end of June. But a new precedent exists in Wisconsin that allows appointees to continue serving past the end of the term—and it’s due to Republican legislators and conservative state Supreme Court justices who protected an appointee of former Gov. Scott Walker so that he could continue to serve.

Wausau area dentist and gun store owner Fred Prehn stayed on the state Natural Resources Board past the 2021 expiration of his term, claiming he could serve so long as the state Senate did not confirm a replacement nominee from Gov. Tony Evers. Text messages later showed how Prehn had communicated with GOP lawmakers, lobbyists, and Walker in a conspiracy to keep Prehn on the board and deny Evers a chance to appoint the majority of its members. 

State Attorney General Josh Kaul sued but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Prehn, and Republicans sat on the nomination of his replacement until after Evers had won election to a second term.

Despite the new precedent created by Republicans, they now say they can create a renomination for Wolfe, vote to reject it, and fire her. 

Democrats have blasted the idea as just the latest ploy by a party that increasingly refuses to accept the outcomes of elections that don’t go their way .

“It is concerning that Senate Republicans are on a path that will drag her into court and waste more taxpayer money while creating more controversy around our elections as we head into the 2024 cycle,” said Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit). “Republicans continue to lose elections. Instead of appealing to voters through popular policies, they are continuing to go after the people who oversee our elections.”

The full state Senate could vote as early as Thursday to take up the extra-legal renomination. Legislators are then likely to return to the topic of whether to attempt to impeach newly-elected liberal state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz – a form of election denial by another name. 

[Editor’s Note: UpNorthNews Founding Editor Pat Kreitlow served as a Democratic state senator from 2007-2011. Bernier served as a Republican state senator in that same district from 2019-2023, after serving in the state Assembly from 2011-2019.]

Author

  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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