Knudson resigns, WI Elections Commission postpones chairperson election

NOW: Knudson resigns, WI Elections Commission postpones chairperson election

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wednesday night, on May 25, led to a major shift in plans for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The bipartisan organization intended to hold an election tonight to choose their next chair, which switches political party every two years.

This year, the two GOP candidates were Dean Knudson and Robert Spindell.

However, early in the meeting, Knudson announced his resignation from the WEC, leaving Spindell as the only candidate for chairperson.

The surprise resignation led commissioners to motion to postpone the chair election for next month, as Assembly Speaker, Robin Vos, will need to appoint another republican commissioner to take Knudson's place.

The vote to postpone was almost unanimous on the bipartisan board, with only Spindell in opposition.

Knudson served as the WEC chairman two years ago, and has been with the commission for five years. 

When announcing his resignation, Knudson noted that as a republican, he believes Donald Trump lost the 2020 election fairly, not due to voter fraud, and that republicans need to move away from conspiracy theories.

"Unfortunately now elected officials, appointed officials, and candidates at the highest levels in my party have refused to believe that Donald trump lost. Even worse, some have peddled misinformation and perpetuated falsehoods about the 2020 election," Knudson said Wednesday.

Some of Knudson's comments were seemingly directed toward his contender for WEC chair, Spindell.

Spindell was one of 10 Wisconsin republicans who attempted to cast fake electoral college votes for Donald Trump in 2020, despite his loss in the state.

The commission voted in March to dismiss that he and his colleagues acted illegally that day.

Last week, two Wisconsin democratic electors and a voter sued the republicans, including Spindell, who attempted to cast those false electoral ballots. The lawsuit was filed in Dane County Circuit Court.

Spindell, now the only candidate for WEC chair, pitched his candidacy during Wednesday's meeting before the vote to postpone. Spindell said his goal is to provide more transparency from the WEC to voters.

"I ask for your vote today so that we, the Wisconsin Elections Commission, rather than being continuously bashed and criticized, can move forward now, certainly during the next six or seven months, to ensure people on all sides believe, we're doing what we should be doing to ensure all questions are answered," Spindell said to his constituents Wednesday.

Commissioners motioned to postpone the chair election to June 10, pending Knudson's replacement.

Knudson said he will serve until that person is appointed.

Political expert Mordecai Lee weighed in to CBS 58 Wednesday, focusing on the need for non-partisanship in Wisconsin.

He said the best move for the commission would be to appoint a chair who believes in the state's election system.

"I believe that government ought to work, government ought to govern, and that rhetoric and conflict are outside of the administration of elections," Lee said. "I hope that the republican leadership of the state legislature will think through who they want to appoint, because it's one thing to complain, but it's another thing to make the elections board fail."

Lee also said running elections in a bipartisan manner is the safest and fairest option for the state.

"I'm in favor of non-partisanship when it comes to running government, and I think we're way off the road. We really need to get back to the middle of the road," Lee said.

The vote for the chairperson for the Wisconsin Elections Commission may not be relevant by next year if Wisconsinites decide to elect a GOP governor in November.

As of Wednesday, all four GOP gubernatorial candidates have said they want to dismantle and abolish the commission if elected. Candidates Rebecca Kleefisch, Kevin Nicholson and Rep. Tim Ramthun in particular have said they would like to see election oversight handled by the Secretary of State. Meanwhile, the Democratic incumbent Governor Tony Evers wants to keep the WEC intact. 

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