By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Charging that state election regulators have substituted “their own preferences and agendas” in place of law, a state lawmaker has authored a resolution calling for the immediate resignations of top Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) officials.
“It has become increasingly clear that certain officials at the Wisconsin Elections Commission have repeatedly disregarded their duty to faithfully and impartially implement our election laws,” said state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), who on Monday sent his colleagues a co-sponsorship memo.
Sanfelippo, who also serves as vice chair of the Assembly committee investigating election integrity complaints from the 2020 presidential election, cites the Legislative Audit Bureau’s October audit that found WEC failed to follow election law. That includes its decision to bar special voting deputies (SVDs) from the state’s nursing homes. The Racine County Sheriff’s Department has recommended felony charges against five of WEC’s six commissioners, alleging that suspending the SVD law led to several severely cognitively impaired nursing home residents forced or manipulated into illegally voting.
Sanfelippo’s resolution demands the immediate resignations of WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe, Assistant Administrator Richard Rydecki, and commissioners Marge Bostelmann, Julie M. Glancey, Ann S. Jacobs, Dean Knudson, and Mark L. Thomsen. The resolution does not call for Commissioner Bob Spindell to resign. Spindell, one of three Republicans on the commission, has been a fairly consistent no vote against WEC actions in question. Bostelmann and Knudson, are the other two Republican-appointed commissioners; Thomsen, Glancey, and WEC Chair Jacobs were appointed by Democrats.
The resolution also expresses the Legislature’s intent to pursue the elections officials removal should they refuse to step down.The Legislature could move to impeach, but that could prove to be an uphill battle. It takes a simple majority in the Assembly, easy enough for the Republican-controlled body. But it requires a super-majority in the Senate. While Republicans hold a comfortable majority there, Sanfelippo said some senators have been reluctant to push the impeachment issue.
Sanfelippo said the Legislature can no longer sit idly by while the agency charged with regulating elections continues to openly flout election law. WEC routinely issues “guidance” and directives on election procedures, getting around the legislative rule-making process required under state law. Republican lawmakers have routinely criticized the agency for doing so.
A lawsuit in Waukesha County alleges what Sanfelippo and others have long argued, that WEC does not have the authority under state statute to issue “guidance” or directives on election law without first going through the legislative rule-making process as other state agencies are required to do. Sanfelippo said he agrees with the premise of the litigation.
He said WEC is just one of many state agencies that has misused its administrative powers to get around or openly defy the Legislature and state laws. He wants to deal with those agencies, too.
“Why do you have a Legislature if you’re just going to let the agencies do what they want,” the lawmaker said. “It’s about time these people who work in these agencies be held accountable when they don’t follow the law.”