MADISON (WKOW) — The Republican lawmaker who heads the state Senate Elections Committee says she will soon introduce a bill that adds a deciding seventh vote to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Senator Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) said in an interview that she believes the current set-up of the commission is unsustainable.
Currently made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, the commission has recently become deadlocked over contentious issues such as guidelines on whether clerks can place additional drop boxes for mail-in ballots.
Republican legislators, including Bernier, voted to create the electoral commission in 2015 after disbanding the Government Accountability Board which oversaw the elections.
Republicans at the time accused the GAB of engaging in a partisan investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by former GOP Gov. Scott Walker.
Bernier said she was drafting a bill that would require Republican and Democratic legislative leaders to agree on a slate of four retired justices they would be comfortable with to serve as the seventh commissioner.
“A bit like a prosecutor and a defense attorney [during a trial]“, Bernier said. “They agree on some members of the jury. This kind of thing could happen.”
Bernier said his proposal would then call for the list of retired justices to be presented to the state Supreme Court.
“To the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, then that Chief Justice would be responsible for appointing that seventh member,” Bernier said.
The state’s high court currently has a conservative 4-3 advantage with conservative Justice Annette Ziegler as chief justice.
Bernier’s idea is the latest in a string of conservative attitudes towards the WEC, which has been under siege since the 2020 presidential election, which revealed President Joe Biden won the state by less than 21,000 votes. following a series of legal challenges and recounts in the state. two most populated counties.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a December interview that he was happy with the way the commission is being constructed.
“The goal of setting up the election commission was to say there is no such thing as impartiality. You have people who are biased one way or the other,” Vos said. “Let’s put an equal amount and have them discuss until they reach a consensus.”
Leading GOP gubernatorial candidates, former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and former Marine Kevin Nicholson, have both called for the WEC to be disbanded.
“We need to replace the WEC with a lot more accountability, which is either a legislative committee or the office of the secretary of state,” Kleefisch said earlier this week at a news conference in Milwaukee.
“It’s time to restore faith in our electoral processes and weed out irresponsible Wisconsin Elections Commission,” Nicholson said via a statement provided by his campaign.
At the center of the dispute is whether the commission should have advised on issues such as drop boxes and nursing home voting before a legislative rules committee.
The non-partisan audit office recommended that the CME establish formal rules instead of advice on how to move forward. WEC President Ann Jacobs said that would give too much power to the legislature, which could then delay proposed rules it doesn’t like.
Kleefisch sued the Elections Commission, asking the Supreme Court to rule that the WEC must submit its guidance to lawmakers as a proposed rule. The high court in a 4-3 vote on Friday denied Kleefisch’s motion for the court to take up the case immediately, sending it first to the lower courts for consideration.