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Wisconsin Republicans propose impeaching top elections official after disputed vote to fire her

Sep 21, 2023, 3:35 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A group of Republican Wisconsin lawmakers on Thursday proposed impeaching the battleground state’s top elections official as Democrats wage a legal battle to keep the nonpartisan administrator in office.

Democrats say the GOP-controlled state Senate acted illegitimately when it voted along party lines last week to oust Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe. In a lawsuit challenging the vote, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul accused Republicans of attacking the state’s elections.

The resolution introduced Thursday by five Assembly Republicans makes Wolfe the second state official GOP lawmakers have threatened with impeachment this month. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Wisconsin’s top Republican, created a panel last week to investigate the criteria for impeaching liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz, whose installment in August tipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court to liberal control for the first time in over a decade.

Wolfe has been targeted by conspiracy theorists who falsely claim she was part of a plot to rig the 2020 election in favor of President Joe Biden. The lawmakers proposing her impeachment have played a role in advancing those claims and some pushed to decertify the results of the 2020 election.

“A gaggle of well-known election deniers is once again attacking Meagan Wolfe, a nonpartisan election administrator who has served Wisconsin and our democracy with the utmost respect and dignity,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard said in a statement.

The 23-page impeachment resolution reiterates conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and faults Wolfe for election administration decisions that were made by elections commissioners. As the elections commission’s nonpartisan administrator, Wolfe has little decision-making power and instead implements decisions made by the three Democrats and three Republicans on the bipartisan commission.

“No matter how many times some politicians misrepresent my actions and how this agency works, it does not make what they’re saying true,” Wolfe said in a statement. “It’s irresponsible for this group of politicians to willfully distort the truth when they’ve been provided the facts for years.”

Republican Rep. Janel Brandtjen, one of the resolution’s authors, lost her position as chair of the Assembly elections committee and was even kicked out of a GOP caucus last year after Republicans said they lost trust in her for promoting election lies. Brandtjen has frequently butted heads with Vos and other GOP leaders, and she endorsed Vos’ Republican primary opponent in the 2022 midterm.

The resolution to impeach Wolfe would need approval from Vos to move forward. He did not respond to an email or text message seeking comment Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu also did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Numerous reviews have found that the 2020 election in Wisconsin was fair and the results were accurate. Biden defeated then-President Donald Trump in 2020 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 multiple state and federal lawsuits.

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Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.

Harm Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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