GOP Senators Vote to Fire Nonpartisan Elections Boss

Meagan Wolfe immediately files suit to keep her Wisconsin job
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2023 6:45 PM CDT
Wisconsin Republicans Fire Elections Chief, Who Sues Them
Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe poses outside the Wisconsin Capitol building in August 2020.   (Ruthie Hauge/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted Thursday to fire the state's top elections official from her nonpartisan job. An hour later, saying they didn't have the authority to remove her, Meagan Wolfe sued them. The 22-11 vote means that, until the courts decide whether Wolfe keeps her job as director of Wisconsin's elections commission, her GOP opponents will be able to argue the legality of every move she makes, the Washington Post reports. In a state that could again be pivotal in deciding the outcome of next year's presidential race, and that might have to redraw legislative districts in the next few months, the situation could be problematic, analysts say.

"I think it's really worrisome because we're in the final stages of preparation for the 2024 elections," said Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and director of its Elections Research Center. "The elections commission is training clerks around the state and issuing guidance, so to have uncertainty about who the top administrator is going into this crucial election season, I think is a real problem." The struggle for control of the elections agency springs from the false claims over the last presidential election, per the AP.

Wolfe has been praised by voting administrators across the country and local officials in her state. But she's also been the subject of conspiracy theories and threats from people who claim she was involved in rigging the 2020 vote in Wisconsin. Republican leaders in the Senate cited those false claims Thursday in voting her out. Wolfe said she won't bow to the political pressure. "The Senate's vote today to remove me is not a referendum on the job I do but rather a reaction to not achieving the political outcome they desire," she said. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul agreed with Wolfe that the senators lack the power to remove her. The party's own lawyers said the same thing, per the Post. (More Wisconsin stories.)

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