The Wisconsin Senate’s Republican president, Chris Kapenga, has requested the Assembly to begin impeachment proceedings against Meagan Wolfe, the state’s chief nonpartisan elections official. This move comes amidst a legal dispute where Democrats challenge the Senate’s decision to dismiss her.
Kapenga’s letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos cited potential “corrupt conduct in office” by Wolfe, the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. However, the previous month’s Republican-backed Senate vote to oust Wolfe had been questioned by the Democratic attorney general and neutral legislative lawyers, who believed the Senate lacked the necessary authority at the time.
Robin Vos, who faced criticism from Democrats for his involvement in a concealed panel inspecting impeachment grounds for a liberal state Supreme Court justice, did not immediately comment.
To impeach a state official in the GOP-dominated Assembly, corrupt conduct or criminal activity must be grounds. If a majority in the Assembly approves impeachment, the Senate would require a two-thirds majority for conviction. Notably, Republicans achieved this supermajority in the Senate in April.
Kapenga expressed concern over the unique situation in Wisconsin where an appointee has disregarded the Senate’s advice and consent powers. He stressed the significance and weight of impeachment and emphasized the need to restore trust in unbiased justice.
In a tight situation earlier in June, the bipartisan elections commission, having equal representation from Democrats and Republicans, could not decide Wolfe’s reappointment. Democratic members refrained from voting, preventing the required majority that would push her nomination to the Republican-majority Senate, where her rejection was inevitable. Despite Wolfe’s term ending in July, a state Supreme Court ruling seemingly allows her to continue indefinitely. Senate Republicans, however, still sought a vote on her reappointment.
Josh Kaul, the Democratic Attorney General, criticized the Republicans, suggesting they were undermining the electoral process. He is seeking a judicial declaration stating the Senate’s vote to be non-binding, ensuring Wolfe retains her position. Concurrently, Senate Republicans contemplate declining the confirmation of a Democratic election commissioner who didn’t vote on Wolfe’s reappointment.
Conspiracy theories have falsely accused Wolfe of involvement in a scheme to manipulate the 2020 election results in favor of Joe Biden. However, Biden’s approximately 21,000-vote victory in Wisconsin over Donald Trump has been consistently upheld through recounts, audits, reviews, and legal cases.
With the 2024 presidential election looming, the contention around the state’s elections commission leadership has introduced uncertainty for the many local clerks in Wisconsin responsible for conducting elections.
Wolfe hasn’t commented recently. Still, she previously denounced Republicans’ impeachment attempts, accusing them of distorting facts. In her role, she mainly implements decisions made by the elections commission.