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Wisconsin’s elections chief speaks out amid GOP calls for her resignation

Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 5:48 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Wisconsin Elections Commission’s (WEC) Administrator made it clear Monday she has no plans of resigning despite calls from Republican leaders, including State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, for her to step down.

Meagan Wolfe said she plans to remain in her job as the commission’s Administrator until at least 2023 when her current term expires.

“I think that it’s not productive, I think that it’s baseless and I think that it’s just partisan politics. I think it also misrepresents my role and the role of the commission,” Wolfe said of calls for her resignation.

The calls come following allegations of voter fraud at a Racine County nursing home from Sheriff Cristopher Schmaling. The Republican sheriff detailed his claims at an Oct. 28 press conference.

Wolfe called the the report of fraud concerning but said while the WEC oversees elections, it doesn’t administer them. Municipal clerks do.

“In every single city, town and village, your clerk is the one registering voters, issuing absentees,” she said. “They know their communities.”

State Rep. Rob Summerfield, R-Bloomer, is among those calling for Wolfe to resign. He thinks the commission needs new leadership.

“With everything that’s come on the last week, the Elections Commission definitely does need the scrutiny,” he said. “We need to completely look at it to see what changes potentially could be made and how to make sure that we have good elections administration.”

State Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Eau Claire, thinks Republicans calling for Wolfe’s resignation are looking for a scapegoat after former President Donald Trump lost Wisconsin in the 2020 election.

“It’s really sad that the Republican Party have decided to throw the Wisconsin Elections Commission, a bipartisan commissioners, along with a very professional director, in Meagan Wolfe, under the bus because their candidate lost,” Smith said.

He said he is open to rethinking who oversees elections in the state. He thinks lawmakers should consider returning to the old system, the Government Accountability Board, which was run by nonpartisan retired judges.

“The retired judges were just exactly what you wanted,” Smith said.

State Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, is the chair of the senate’s Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics. She released a statement Monday following Wolfe’s press conference:

“I was able to follow along for much of today’s press conference and felt that Administrator Wolfe did a fine job of explaining the processes and procedures that the Elections Commission works under and implement on a daily basis. As the administrator, it is her job to carry out the decisions of the commission, and that is the only thing she is allowed to do.

“It is also important to note that the Election Commission cannot enforce state laws related to voting, instead that is the role of the criminal justice system. District attorneys and the state’s Attorney General are the ones responsible for initiating investigations and bringing charges in cases of potential voter fraud, whether that is in Racine or anywhere else in the state. As Administrator Wolfe said in her press conference, if proper procedures were not followed by the Racine facility, then staff there must be investigated by law enforcement and any wrongdoing should lead to charges by the local district attorney.

“I appreciate that WEC is viewing the Legislative Audit Bureau’s recent report as a learning opportunity and they are already preparing to make needed adjustments that it pointed out. Like Administrator Wolfe stated earlier, I believe that the more the public knows about elections, the more confidence they will have in their accuracy and security.”

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