AG candidate asks Evers to remove 5 election commissioners, a move attorneys say Evers can't do

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) --A Republican running for attorney general filed a complaint asking Governor Tony Evers to remove five members on the state elections commission from office, but state attorneys say Evers doesn't have the authority to do so.

Fond du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney sent Gov. Evers a complaint seeking the removal of five out of six commissioners who serve on the bipartisan state elections commission over their guidance to send absentee ballots instead of special voting deputies to nursing homes during the pandemic.

During a new conference, Toney said the decision to not send special voting deputies to help residents vote during the 2020 presidential election was illegal and he believes WEC acted "rogue."

"What we saw from the Wisconsin Elections Commission is that they in fact went rogue," Toney said. "What they did was illegal and they did in fact commit crimes."

Toney, a GOP candidate in the attorney general's race, maintained Evers has the power to remove commissioners, but nonpartisan attorneys for the Legislature said he can only remove two.

Evers has the authority to remove two commissioners that he appointed, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Council which gives legal advice to lawmakers. The same rules apply to Democrat and Republican legislative leaders who also appoint commissioners.

Toney said he didn't ask GOP leaders to get involved because he thought Evers could kick WEC members out of office.

The governor could remove all five members on the commission on his own, including those appointed by lawmakers, if the Legislature was in recess, according to Evers' spokeswoman. However, the Legislature has not officially adjourned -- a move that's required for the Legislature to be in recess.

Ann Jacobs, chair of the state elections commission, said if Toney was serious about holding election officials accountable, he should have contacted the proper individuals.

"If he [Toney] is really serious, wouldn't you go to the people who actually appointed us, who do have the authority to remove us from the positions?" said Jacobs. "This is just another attempt to gin up excitement in somebody who apparently has a lagging campaign."

Adam Jarchow, Toney's GOP opponent in the attorney general race, called the complaint a "political stunt."

"While Eric Toney is out doing political stunts and even initiating election prosecutions that he failed to pursue until becoming a candidate, my focus is on restoring order and keeping our citizens safe in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and other places across the state where violence is out of control," Jarchow said in a statement.

The only member Toney didn't request to be removed from office was Republican Bob Spindell, who changed his vote on the commission, opposing sending absentee ballots to nursing homes.

Toney's complaint follows multiple calls from Republicans who want to criminally charge state election officials for how the 2020 election was administered. Much of the frustration stems from a Racine County sheriff investigation that alleges sending absentee ballots to nursing homes led to incompetent people voting, resulting in potential voter fraud.

The Racine County district attorney declined to charge WEC members, noting she doesn't have jurisdiction because they don't live in her county. Milwaukee and Green Lake district attorneys also didn't file charges because they believed there was a lack of evidence crimes were committed.

A review of the 2020 election conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau did find commissioners broke the law for not sending voting deputies to help residents vote.

Joe Biden was declared the winner in Wisconsin, defeating Donald Trump by about 21,000 votes. Recounts, reviews and court rulings have all upheld the results.

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