In a letter to municipal and county clerks sent Wednesday morning, Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) Administrator Meagan Wolfe laid out her case for why she should be reappointed to the role when her term expires July 1.
Wolfe, who has become a regular target of right-wing attacks as Republicans across the state have become hostile to the state’s election system, said that the state will be better off if it has an experienced hand running leading the agency during the 2024 election season, which starts in April with the Republican presidential primary.
“No matter what my future holds, my request of the Commission is that they select the path forward that offers this agency and Wisconsin’s election officials the best chance for stability in the coming months and years ahead,” she wrote. “The 2024 presidential election is now less than a year and a half away, and much less so if you include preparations for the Spring Primary. It is critical that Wisconsin have a state chief election official who has the support of the clerks, Commission, Legislature, and public ahead of a series of elections that will no doubt receive more attention and scrutiny. Regardless of who the Commission selects to lead this agency, my hope is that the Legislature works quickly to confirm them. For the good of the state, Wisconsin elections should be led by a confirmed administrator. And while I would ultimately support the Commission’s decision to go in the direction of appointing someone new, there is no substitute for my decade-plus of experience in helping run Wisconsin elections at the state level. It is a fact that if I am not selected for this role, Wisconsin would have a less experienced administrator at the helm.”
Wolfe was unanimously confirmed to serve a four-year term by the Senate in 2019 after previously holding several roles in the agency. But as Republican attacks have grown against the WEC, and often personally against Wolfe, support for her reappointment has diminished. Earlier this month, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that a number of Republican senators and Milwaukee-area Democrat, Sen. Lena Taylor, planned to oppose her confirmation if she’s renominated.
The choice of the next administrator is first in the hands of the six-member bipartisan commission. If the commission is unable to reach a majority vote on its selection, the choice would move to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Legislative Organization, which is run by the leadership of both legislative houses.
In April, the Wisconsin Examiner reported that with the coming change in ideology of the majority on the state Supreme Court, Democrats were worried that Republicans would use Wolfe’s expiring term as a way to entrench a partisan figure as the state’s top election official.
Mark Thomsen, a Democratic appointee to the commission, told the Examiner that before the Democrats on the commission can take solace in the fact that the state Supreme Court will have their back in fights over election law, the body needs to get through the administrator selection process.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens between now and July, because the focus is going to be on our administrator and we’re going to get into the weeds, because Meagan Wolfe’s term is up and we already know that the Republicans have asked her to resign,” he said. “I see the big issue on the commission is going to be can we agree on a new administrator and if not what happens. And I know that the Senate is thinking they’re going to pick the next administrator because they’re going to want to run that agency for 2024, so all that’s going to happen regardless of the Supreme Court.”
In her letter to clerks, Wolfe said that she’d never ask them to stick their necks out in pushing for her reconfirmation, but urged them to continue standing up for the fact that Wisconsin elections are safe, fair and secure.
“I don’t expect you to risk your own positions to advocate for me and will never ask you to do that. Too much has been asked of you, and Wisconsin clerks have put themselves on the line over the past few years too often to keep count,” she wrote. “However, I do hope that in the weeks and months ahead, you can speak truth about Wisconsin elections when opportunities arise in your communities. False claims about election administration in the state of Wisconsin have proliferated since 2020. These claims are inaccurate and predicated on the false premise that the WEC administrator can make decisions unilaterally. This is simply not true. I do not have a vote on Commission matters. I have never had a vote on Commission matters. My job is to implement the decisions of the six-member, bipartisan Commission. Commission meetings are public and decisions issued by the Commission are always public. Contrary to what a vocal minority may claim, my tenure at the WEC has been marked by successfully run elections during some of the most difficult circumstances in our state and nation’s history. That is in no small part due to your hard work.”
Wolfe’s term expires July 1. A WEC spokesperson said she wouldn’t discuss her reappointment with the media until after the commission meets and votes on the topic.
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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F06%2F14%2Fin-letter-to-clerks-wec-administrator-argues-for-reappointment-benefit-of-experience-in-2024%2F by Henry Redman