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Senate committee votes not to reappoint top election administrator

Republicans on the committee pointed to Wolfe's absence at a public hearing on her confirmation earlier this month as to why they voted not to reappoint her.

Senate committee votes not to reappoint top election administrator

Source: Wisconsin Elections Commission

September 12, 2023 12:17 PM CDT
By: Nate Wegehaupt

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MADISON, Wis. (Civic Media) – Senate Republicans voted not to reappoint Meagan Wolfe as the state’s top election administrator. But their vote may not matter, as legal experts say that her reappointment isn’t even before them.

The vote in the Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections, and Consumer Protection was three against her reappointment, Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), Romaine Quinn (R-Cameron), and Dan Fayen (R-Fond du Lac), one if favor, Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), and one abstain, Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick).

Senator Fayen said in a press release Monday that he voted against her reappointment because she did not appear at a hearing on the matter, and that she had lost the trust of the public. Republicans have been critical of Wolfe’s handling of the 2020 presidential election, and how the commission advised people how to vote during COVID.

During the confirmation hearing earlier this month, speakers pointed to baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election as to why Wolfe should not be reappointed. 

Committee members voted via paper ballot, meaning that they were not able to discuss the issue before their vote. Legal opinions from both state Attorney General Josh Kaul and the legislative legal counsel have stated, however, that the vote would not be legally binding, as her appointment is not actually up for a vote.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Elections Commission failed to vote as to whether or not to reappoint Wolfe as the chief elections administrator. Her reappointment required a two-thirds majority of the commission. But Democrats on the commission abstained from voting, meaning that only three out of six commissioners voted for Wolfe to stay in the job.

Democrats argue that, because she was not voted in by two-thirds of the commission, she is allowed to stay in the post indefinitely. They point to a case last year, when the state Supreme Court ruled that Fredrick Prehn could stay on the state’s Natural Resources Board until either his replacement was confirmed or he stepped down. Prehn, who stayed on the board for two years after his term technically ended, resigned last December.

Sen. Spreitzer told the Devil’s Advocates Radio Show on Monday that, because she was never nominated for reappointment, there is no real vote before the committee.

The issue will now go to the state Senate, who has not yet scheduled a vote on whether or not to reappoint Wolfe. Either way, Wolfe will likely remain in her position until the matter is resolved in court. 

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