Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator blames criticism of agency on ‘misunderstanding’ of its function

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin’s top election official said a lot of the criticism she’s received from Republican state lawmakers is from a lack of understanding about how the Wisconsin Elections Commission actually works.

Speaking to Mike Gousha from the Marquette University Law School in a virtual program, commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe said she is proud of her efforts, as well as those of the commission and local election clerks, in administering the 2020 election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that a lot of what is said sometimes is either baseless for partisan purposes or it really represents a complete misunderstanding of how the commission functions, what my role is as part of the commission, and so I have too much work to do really to stop and be angry about things,” Wolfe said.

Republicans have taken issue with some of the guidance the commission issued to local clerks ahead of the election, arguing that guidance violated election laws. Former lieutenant governor and current gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch sued the agency last month to suspend that guidance.

In October, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau released an audit of the election that, while it did not identify any widespread fraud, outlined 30 improvements the WEC could make and highlighted 18 items lawmakers could consider changing.

READ: Full Legislative Audit Bureau report

A number of lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, have called on Wolfe and five of the six elections commissioners to step down, while others have rushed to her defense.

On Friday, Wolfe reiterated she has no plans to resign.

“I have a really important job to do, and that job is to remain nonpartisan,” she said. “I’m the administrator for a bipartisan commission that’s appointed by the legislative leadership and I’m required by law to be non-partisan. That’s a hard job, especially in this climate.”

Wolfe became the interim administrator in March 2018, and the state Senate unanimously confirmed her to a full four-year term in May 2019.

The unanimous support she received at the time “feels like a lifetime ago,” she said.