Michels floats plan to scrap WEC, replace with congressional district board

MIDDLETON, Wis. — Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels floated a plan to replace the commission that oversees the state’s elections with a board that could likely favor Republicans.

Michels proposed the idea while talking about election integrity at a campaign stop in Middleton Thursday. The plan would replace the current 3-3 bipartisan commission with a new board of eight members representing each of Wisconsin’s congressional districts.

Currently, five of the eight districts are held by Republicans, but that majority could expand to six if Republican Derrick Van Orden beats Democrat Brad Pfaff to replace retiring longtime U.S. Rep. Ron Kind in the 3rd Congressional District in western Wisconsin.

“I’m going to replace it with a group — we’re going call it the Wisconsin election integrity group,” Michels said. “They’ll have representation from all eight congressional districts and we’re going to make sure that the people of Wisconsin are confident that we have election integrity.”

Michels declined to answer reporters’ questions on who would be empowered to appoint members to the board. For the current Wisconsin Elections Commission, leadership from both major parties appoints members to the commission, which ensures its bipartisan makeup.

Michels also pitched some legislative action he would like to see if he takes the governor’s mansion — priorities he would likely work with the Republican Legislature to achieve.

“We’re going to stop the out-of-state billionaires from coming in with the Zucker-bucks … we’re going to stop the indefinitely confined status,” Michels said.

Both of those have been points of contention for conservatives still critical of the 2020 election. During the pandemic, more voters cast absentee ballots under the indefinitely confined status, which allowed for some changes including allowing them to forgo the photo ID requirement.

Conservatives were also critical of a Mark Zuckerberg-backed nonprofit that provided support to more than 200 Wisconsin municipalities to run their elections amid the pandemic.

This also comes the same week that Michels said during a campaign stop that if he were elected governor that Republicans would never lose another election. For his part, Michels says he will accept the results of Tuesday’s election.

Photojournalist Jim Rader contributed from Middleton.