Legal questions unanswered for Wisconsin’s election chief, second term



(The Center Square) – The future of Wisconsin’s elections administrator is likely headed for a couple of untested legal arguments.

The Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution that will try and force a confirmation vote on Meagan Wolfe from the Wisconsin Elections Commission. That resolution came immediately after Democratic members of the Elections Commission refused to approve Wolfe for a second term as election administrator specifically to avoid that Senate vote.

Rick Esenberg, general counsel at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said both the Senate and the Elections Commission are banking on unique interpretations of state law and a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision.

“Democrats are trying to use [the Prehn case] to say that they can’t even vote on Wolfe because there is no vacancy…Now that position is, in and of itself, nonsense because it would leave the limitation of Wolfe’s term to four years out of the statute,” Esenberg explained. “It would mean anytime there is an administrator who doesn’t want to leave, there’s no vacancy, and WEC can’t take a vote to replace that person. That is obviously not what the legislature intended.”

Esenberg said the Senate Republicans legal theory, that three elections commissioners voted for Wolfe, while none voted against her, thereby giving her a unanimous appointment is likely also not correct either. Esenberg said state law requires a two-thirds vote from the Elections Commission, which would be four votes.

Esenberg said the Democrats on the Elections Commission are, essentially, trying to game the system.

“This deadlock has been created artificially by the Democrats because they think it strengthens their legal position, and allows them to get this issue into court rather than have it go before the Senate or the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization,” Esenbeg said. “In my mind, it’s just another example of a problem that we have in the country. And that is people lose sight of their institutional role. And the institutional role of the Elections Commission is not to do what’s best for Democrats. It’s to do their jobs.”

Esenberg said by playing political games with its administrator, the Elections Commission is making it look like it is playing political games with Wisconsin’s electoral system.

“It looks like they are not honest brokers. It looks like they are just trying to do whatever will advance their side. And that’s not healthy,” Esenberg added. “And having a system which is perceived by the public as not healthy is a far bigger issue than whether Meagan Wolfe gets to continue as election administrator.”

Many Senate Republicans, and at least one Senate Democrat have promised to vote against Wolfe if her nomination comes before the Senate. They all continue to be unhappy with how Wolfe handled the 2020 election in Wisconsin.

No one is saying just when the Senate will vote on Wolfe, or when the first court case in the matter could be filed.

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