Wisconsin elections agency wants money to bolster confidence

Aug 30, 2022, 7:22 PM | Updated: Aug 31, 2022, 1:33 pm

FILE - Yuna Seong, center, looks over her completed ballot while voting at the Vilas Park Shelter i...

FILE - Yuna Seong, center, looks over her completed ballot while voting at the Vilas Park Shelter in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Wisconsin’s bipartisan elections agency, which has been under fire from Republicans since Donald Trump’s loss in 2020, wants to ask the GOP-controlled Legislature to pay for additional staff to increase the accuracy and confidence in election results, help the public better understand how elections work and more quickly process complaints. (Kayla Wolf/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

(Kayla Wolf/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s bipartisan elections agency, which has been under fire from Republicans since Donald Trump’s loss in 2020, voted unanimously Wednesday to ask the GOP-controlled Legislature to create a new division designed to increase confidence in election results in the face of ongoing conspiracy theories and false claims of widespread fraud.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission approved the proposal at its Wednesday meeting to seek $1.3 million to hire 10 people and create an Elections Inspector General office.

“This office would not be about dwelling in the past or giving credence to claims that threaten the credibility of Wisconsin’s accurate and secure elections,” said Meagan Wolfe, the commission’s administrator and top elections official in Wisconsin.

The commission has been at the heart of many complaints lodged by Trump, Republican lawmakers and others related to guidance it gave local election officials for the 2020 election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that absentee ballot drop boxes are illegal even though the commission issued guidance allowing them, and there are ongoing legal fights over who can legally return an absentee ballot and whether election clerks can fill in missing information on envelopes that contain absentee ballots.

President Joe Biden defeated Trump by nearly 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, an outcome that has withstood two partial recounts, a nonpartisan audit, a conservative law firm’s review and numerous state and federal lawsuits. Even a Republican-ordered review that drew bipartisan criticism did not turn up evidence of wrongdoing that would change the outcome of the election before the investigator was fired.

However, Republicans have continued to push for changes in how elections are administered in Wisconsin. In the face of that criticism, the commission was proposing creating the new office to increase confidence in elections and bolster the agency’s ability to more quickly research inquiries from the public and lawmakers, especially those alleging illegal behavior.

The agency said that since 2016, the average number of public records requests received by the commission has increased from two per month to more than 16 per month. The number of complaints has also skyrocketed, Wolfe said. They were 15 a year before 2020, but this year, the commission is on pace to receive more than 100, she said

“Public engagement and scrutiny of election administration is higher than at any other point in the commission’s seven-year history,” Wolfe said.

Creating the office to better handle those requests “would be one clear and decisive step toward creating a more effective, efficient agency that will better address citizen concerns and requests and thus increase public confidence in our elections,” the agency said in materials prepared for the meeting.

The proposed office would also include a legislative liaison and a communications specialist whose job it would be to convey the office’s findings to lawmakers and the public, the agency said.

Don Millis, the Republican chair of the elections commission, supported the new office, saying it would increase the integrity of and confidence in elections. The election inspector general would be hired by the commission administrator and report to that person.

Despite the commission’s vote of approval Wednesday, creating the new office faces major hurdles. It would have to be approved by the Legislature, which includes many Republicans who want to dissolve the commission entirely, and then be signed into law by the next governor. Those votes would not happen until the summer of 2023.

Republican state Sen. Howard Marklein, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee that would vote on creating the new office, had no comment on the proposal. State Rep. Mark Born, the other co-chair, did not comment on whether he would support the idea, saying it was “in the very early stages of the budget process.”

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers supports the commission, which the Republican-controlled Legislature created. But his Republican challenger Tim Michels, who is endorsed by Trump and has left open the possibility of trying to decertify his 2020 loss, wants to create a new commission.

Michels did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Evers didn’t commit to support the idea, but his spokesperson Britt Cudaback said the governor would review it and that he welcomed efforts to combat misinformation, bolster election security and ensure every eligible voter can cast their ballot.

Cudaback said the proposal was made necessary because of Republicans and their allies who “intentionally legitimized disinformation about our elections, attacked the personal and professional integrity of poll workers, clerks, and election administrators, and enabled the harassment of dedicated public servants.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


biden crisis averted...

Zeke Miller and Chris Megerian

Biden celebrates a ‘crisis averted’ in Oval Office address on bipartisan debt ceiling deal

President Joe Biden celebrated a “crisis averted” in his first speech to the nation from the Oval Office Friday evening.

2 days ago

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age and Competition, ...

Associated Press

US, Europe working on voluntary AI code of conduct as calls grow for regulation

The United States and Europe are drawing up a voluntary code of conduct for artificial intelligence as the developing technology triggers warnings

2 days ago

FILE - Idaho Attorney General candidate Rep. Raul Labrador speaks during the Idaho Republican Party...

Associated Press

Families sue to block Idaho law barring gender-affirming care for minors

The families of two transgender teenagers filed a lawsuit Thursday to block enforcement of Idaho's ban on gender-affirming medical care for minors.

3 days ago

Amazon agreed Wednesday to pay a $25 million civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission alleg...

Associated Press

Amazon fined $25M for violating child privacy with Alexa

Amazon agreed Wednesday to pay a $25 million civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations it violated a child privacy law

3 days ago

FILE - Candles are lit on a memorial wall during an anniversary memorial service at the Holy Trinit...

Associated Press

Pain and terror felt by passengers before Boeing Max crashed can be considered, judge rules

Families of passengers who died in the crash of a Boeing 737 Max in Ethiopia can seek damages for the pain and terror suffered by victims in the minutes before the plane flew nose-down into the ground, a federal judge has ruled.

4 days ago

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI speaks at University College ...

Associated Press

Artificial intelligence threatens extinction, experts say in new warning

Scientists and tech industry leaders issued a new warning Tuesday about the perils that artificial intelligence poses to humankind.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Wisconsin elections agency wants money to bolster confidence