Wisconsin Republicans are pushing to disband a bipartisan election commission they created and jail most of its members, The New York Times reports.
Republicans seized on a recent report finding no evidence of any voter fraud in the state but recommended dozens of changes to election administration.
Republicans criticized the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission, which Republicans created in 2016, over a March 2020 vote lifting a rule requiring special voting deputies to visit nursing homes twice before issuing absentee ballots to residents when they were barred from entering such facilities during the pandemic.
Though no Republicans or anyone else filed lawsuits over the change at the time, Republicans targeted the committee after Trump’s election loss.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling called for five of the commissioners who voted to change the rule to be charged with election fraud and misconduct in office.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos backed the call, saying that the commissioners should “probably” face felony charges.
Commission pushes back:
The commissioners say they did not break any laws.
Ann Jacobs, the Democratic chairwoman of the commission, said “even my Republican colleagues” were afraid of what will happen to the state’s elections amid the assault.
“We did everything we could during the pandemic to help people vote,” she told the Times.
“Moving forward, the Commission reiterates its commitment to protect a person’s right to vote,” the commission said in a statement. “In order to guarantee that right in 2020, while facing an unparalleled pandemic, the Commission exercised its best judgment, in consultation with experts and stakeholders, and issued its guidance. The Commission will continue to advocate for the rights of Wisconsinites to exercise their precious, constitutional right to vote.”
Ron Johnson floats bigger power grab:
Sen. Ron Johnson has gone even further, urging the state legislature to assert complete control over federal elections.
“The State Legislature has to reassert its constitutional role, assert its constitutional responsibility, to set the times, place and manner of the election, not continue to outsource it through the Wisconsin Elections Commission,” Johnson said. “The Constitution never mentions a governor.”
Vos said that he has not studied the details of Johnson’s proposal.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vowed to fight any such move.
“The outrageous statements and ideas Wisconsin Republicans have embraced aren’t about making our elections stronger, they’re about making it more difficult for people to participate in the democratic process,” vers said Thursday, calling the proposal “nothing more than a partisan power grab.”