A Dane County judge on Friday issued an order temporarily blocking Republican lawmakers from removing or replacing the state’s top election official while a legal dispute over his appointment continues.
In a court filing last week, lawyers for Republican leaders acknowledged that their efforts to oust Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe were “symbolic” that Wolfe was legally in her current position and that the legislators they have no power to replace him, despite the Republican Party. . Leaders have admitted the opposite in public statements.
“An order is in the public interest because maintaining the status quo will avoid confusion and disruption to Wisconsin’s decentralized election administration system. Simply put, I agree with the WEC that the public expects stability in their electoral system and this court order will provide pending stability.”The court’s final decision,” Dane County Circuit Judge Ann Peacock wrote in an order issued Friday afternoon.
The order states that the Election Commission is authorized to recognize Wolfe as “the legal holder of the office of Trustee, vested with the full authority of said office and entitled to its privileges,” and that the actions of the State Senate intended to remove or replace. Wolfe “has no legal effect” and that the “other official actions of the defendants to remove or attempt to remove Meagan Wolfe from the position of administrator, including the appointment of an interim administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission,” they have no legal effect”, everything is subject to the final decision of the court.
Wolfe presided over a commission that had been criticized for three years for false claims made by former President Donald Trump to convince his supporters that he had actually won an election he lost and for of the policies he endorsed to the commissioners of the US presidential election. 2020 to overcome obstacles. presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
President Joe Biden defeated Trump in 2020 by about 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, a result confirmed by two recounts paid for by Trump, state audits, partisan surveys, a conservative study and more cases.
In September, the state Senate, in a party-line vote, rejected Wolfe’s nomination. Minutes after the vote, Kaul filed a lawsuit asking a judge to block Republican legislative leaders from appointing a new administrator and declaring Wolfe administrator, arguing that the Senate has no authority to remove him. Meanwhile, Wolfe said he will not quit his job until the court tells him to.
Separately, a week after the Senate voted to remove Wolfe, five Republicans in the state Assembly proposed articles seeking to remove Wolfe from office through impeachment, an effort that has so far failed to advance. in the assembly.
In addition:PolitiFact: The articles of impeachment against Meagan Wolfe are filled with false and misleading claims
Although lawmakers rejected Wolfe, he remained in his position because the vote to remove him was not recognized by Wolfe or many Democrats as legitimate, as the Republican-controlled state Senate forced a vote on Wolfe’s future, although the bipartisan election commission is accused of hiring. he did not offer Wolfe’s nomination for consideration.
When Wolfe’s term ended in June, the six members of the committee agreed that Wolfe should remain in office, but failed to reach a consensus on how to respond to efforts by Senate Republicans to oust him.
In the end, the commission fell short of the four votes required by law to reappoint Wolfe, and the Democratic commissioners argued that a recent state Supreme Court decision allowing those officials to remain in office beyond the expiration of their terms his mandate protects Wolfe’s job.
Senate Republicans decided to proceed anyway. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, argued that the committee’s 3-0 vote that resulted in the failure of a motion to reappoint Wolfe was actually enough votes to reappoint Wolfe. , although state law states that such votes require a majority of the commissioners . or four votes. .
“They could have voted no. They did not vote no. It would have been a tie, but it was a unanimous vote,” LeMahieu said after a session where Republicans voted in favor of Wolfe’s nomination. “3-0 is a two-thirds vote.”
But in a document filed Oct. 16, LeMahieu’s attorneys argued otherwise: They claimed the commission’s 3-0 vote on Wolfe “did not result in an appointment,” that Wolfe was legally the his current position and that “The Senate has no right. .” .” power to act on a nomination if there are no pending nominations. “
Legislative leaders also said in the filing that the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Organization Committee “does not have the authority to appoint an acting administrator while Administrator Wolfe is in office,” but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, indicated which is not. agree to this concession.
“The law is very clear that you must have four votes to appoint a person. “If the person cannot be appointed, there is a legal process that is exactly how the JCLO will appoint a person,” said Vos to those reporter last week.
GOP leaders asked the court to order the Election Commission to appoint an administrator to a four-year term “whether there is a vacancy or not” by November 1.