GOP-led committee recommends firing elections chief Meagan Wolfe

NOW: GOP-led committee recommends firing elections chief Meagan Wolfe

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republicans on a key Senate committee voted against having the state's chief election officer keep her job heading into the 2024 presidential race.

The Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection voted 3-1 by paper ballot to recommend Meagan Wolfe be fired as the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

All three Republicans on the committee voted against Wolfe's reappointment, one Democrat approved, and Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) abstained. The move will advance Wolfe's appointment to the Senate floor where lawmakers could act to remove her as soon as Thursday when they convene for session.

It's the latest step in a prolonged political fight over Wolfe leading the agency next year when Wisconsin is once again anticipated to play a crucial role in electing a presidential candidate.

Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du lac) said he voted against Wolfe by referencing how she didn't show up to testify at a public hearing about her job last month. The hearing resulted in some supporters praising Wolfe, while numerous election deniers targeted her for rules the commission enacted to help carry out an election in midst of a pandemic.

“Two weeks ago, when the committee met to hear testimony on Ms. Wolfe’s appointment, she didn’t bother to show up to her own public hearing," Feyen said. "What I heard instead were numerous concerns from Wisconsinites around the state who have lost faith in the job she was doing as administrator."

Ann Jacobs, a Democratic commissioner, defended Wolfe and said she's being unfairly targeted for former President Donald Trump losing to Joe Biden in Wisconsin.

"Instead of trying to get more voters, they created this myth administrator Wolfe somehow controlled it and caused that to happen," Jacobs said. "The things they complain about her doing were things that were ordered by the commission in open meetings for the public to see, and the false claims against her are nothing more than trying to find an excuse that their guy lost."

In a tweet, Gov. Tony Evers commented that, “Republicans are hell-bent on doing everything they can to interfere with our elections, including trying to abuse their power by improperly firing the state’s elections commissioner."

Monday's committee vote also sets up a potential legal showdown as Democrats and attorneys for the Legislature have stated Republicans don't have the authority to oust Wolfe.

"I believe this vote, as well as floor votes that might follow, are entirely symbolic and they have no legal effect," said Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit). "Any continuation of this process by Senate Republicans likely just leads us to a court battle and leading to additional uncertainties in our elections."

Attorney General Josh Kaul has said Republicans are acting illegitimately while Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu interprets the law differently, leading to dueling positions on whether Wolfe can remain in her role.

Many predict the issue will lead to a lawsuit, which could take months to resolve and occur just as voters begin to receive ballots for the 2024 election.

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