Reform group urges abolishing Wisconsin Elections Commission

‘We need to get back to having voters in charge,’ group organizer says. ‘And that means putting it back into an office that is elected.’

Updated: August 23, 2021 - 11:21pm

The Institute for Reforming Government on Monday proposed eliminating the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

“Our policy proposal is to do just that, to get rid of WEC. To abolish the Wisconsin Elections Commission,” IRG Vice President Chris Reeder said. “Instead [we want] to do what most other states do. Thirty three states have an elected individual in charge of overseeing elections in their states.”

IRG’s proposal is to turn those duties over to Wisconsin’s secretary of state.

Reeder said Wisconsin’s secretary of state used to oversee elections, but the legislature took that power away in 1973.

The Government Accountability Board then oversaw elections in the state, but it was disbanded in 2015 when lawmakers complained of Democratic politicking. The WEC was then created.

Reeder admits that shifting election management from the officially non-partisan Elections Commission to an elected officer will inject politics into elections in Wisconsin. In fact, Reeder said, that’s kind of the point.

“Partisanship is part of our elections. It’s part of the politics of our state,” Reeder said. “The function of overseeing elections, however, should not be.”

Reeder said, simply put, voters can fire an elected official who mismanages elections or is too political in their management.

“We need to get back to having voters in charge,” Reeder added. “And that means putting it back into an office that is elected.”