by Benjamin Yount
Republican lawmakers at the Wisconsin Capitol are pretty much dismissing the idea of an inspector general at the state’s Elections Commission from the start.
Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe on Wednesday asked the Legislature for $1.3 million to create a new inspector general’s office inside the Elections Commission.
“The profile, prominence and importance of Wisconsin’s election administration has changed drastically, and the public engagement and scrutiny of election administration is higher than at any other point in the commission’s seven-year history,” Wolfe said.
Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, who oversees the Assembly Committee on Elections and is a frequent critic of the commission, said the idea that WEC needs more to oversee itself is laughable.
“The idea that we would allow unelected bureaucrats to investigate themselves is the pinnacle of absurdity,” Brandtjen said. “[The Commission] needs to be 100% accountable to the Legislature. Creating a new position outside of the legislature has just one point, to make sure that any outstanding requests for information is buried in a new organization.”
Brandtjen is not alone.
Rep. Amy Loundebeck, R-Clinton, said the commission needs to restore public trust in elections by following the state’s election laws.
“[There] is a much larger issue that needs to be addressed as part of an overarching policy discussion in collaboration with the executive and legislative branches of government,” Loudenbeck said in a statement. “The fact the Wisconsin Elections Commission is even considering spending more than a million dollars in taxpayer money to set up an agency within an agency to be a check on its own responsibilities is just another painful reminder of why WEC as currently structured does not work.”
Loudenbeck could benefit from a reworked Elections Commission. She is running as the Republican candidate for secretary of state, and some Republican lawmakers want to take election oversight away from the commission and give it to the secretary of state’s office.
Wolfe said the IG’s office is necessary because they have seen an increase in public records requests and election complaints.
Wolfe said public record requests have jumped from two per month in 2016 to 16 per month this year. Complaints have increased from 15 per-year, to more than 50 each year since the 2020 election.
Brandtjen said the Elections Commission should not get “one penny” more until it “provides records to the Legislature without charging fees, open their books, address complaints in a timely manner and show us the Electronic Registration Information Center contracts.”
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Benjamin Yount is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “Janel Brandtjen” by Representative Janel Brandtjen. Photo “Amy Loudenbeck” by Wisconsin Legislation. Photo “Meagan Wolfe” by Wisconsin Elections Commission. Background Photo “Wisconsin State Capitol” by Mike Steele. CC BY 2.0.