May 20, 2022

By Amanda Pustz,
Protect Wisconsin Elections State Director

After President Joe Biden won Wisconsin in the 2020 Presidential Election, extremists in the state have relentlessly undermined the state’s election integrity. Despite multiple recounts and court decisions confirming President Biden’s win, they’ve continued to spread the lie that the election was rigged. The Wisconsin Republican Party even hired Republican Attorney and former State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to conduct a review of the 2020 election. The review is still going on today.

So far, the review has cost Wisconsin taxpayers $676,000. And Gableman has provided little evidence of fraud in the 2020 election. Instead, he has attacked the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the bipartisan government body that administers elections in Wisconsin. He has done everything from calling for the Commission to be disbanded to criticizing the clothing of Commission Director Meagan Wolfe.

With all this attention on an obscure government body that oversees elections, it begs the question: What exactly is the Wisconsin Elections Commission? And why are extremists within the Wisconsin Republican Party spending so much time and money trying to undermine Wisconsin election integrity?

Democratic Institutions Under Attack

While the Wisconsin Elections Commission is somewhat new, a statewide organization overseeing Wisconsin elections has been around in some form since 1974. Created in 2016, the current Elections Commission is in charge of maintaining the statewide voter registration list, preparing and publishing election manuals and conducting voting system audits, among other duties. The Commission itself is bipartisan, with three Republican and three Democratic members.

Despite the bipartisan makeup of the Elections Commission, it has come under intense fire from some in the Wisconsin Republican Party. This is part of a larger wave of attacks on American democracy around the country, from Arizona to Georgia. In all, 19 states passed 34 laws in 2021 that made voting harder, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Gableman’s report continues this trend of attacking public trust in America’s election integrity. In his Second Interim Investigative Report, he called for the Wisconsin Legislature to "eliminate and dismantle" the Wisconsin Elections Commission and fire its administrator. He has also pushed the Wisconsin Legislature to decertify the 2020 election, even though its own nonpartisan lawyers said it is legally impossible

While decertifying the 2020 election is highly unlikely in Wisconsin, the threats against nonpartisan election institutions should be taken seriously. Ensuring that our elections are conducted in a fair, nonpartisan manner is crucial for maintaining our democracy. When politicians of either party seek to undermine this balance, they endanger America's free and fair elections. And it makes the prospect of political violence, like we all witnessed on January 6th, more likely. 

Fighting Back

Luckily, there are many excellent organizations working to protect Wisconsin election integrity. Protect Wisconsin Elections, a project of RepresentUs, is a volunteer-led group working to protect county and municipal clerks, volunteer poll workers and upstanding citizens who ensure that Wisconsin elections run smoothly. 

Protect Wisconsin Elections is using several strategies to counter the attacks on Wisconsin democracy. These include letters to the editor training workshops, educating the public on the threats to Wisconsin elections, organizing events and collecting petitions to support the Wisconsin Elections Commission. 

Grassroots movements like these are key to expressing support for nonpartisan, independent elections. Working together with partners is crucial for important work like this, and RepresentUs is proud to coordinate with our partners fighting to protect American democracy. 

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Contributors: Adam DuBard, RepresentUs Political Analyst; Ally Marcella, RepresentUs Research Analyst

RepresentUs is America’s leading anti-corruption organization working city-by-city, state-by-state to fix our broken political system.