State's top election official weighs in on GOP attempts to overhaul WEC, address audit recommendations

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The state's top election official is weighing in on Republican attempts to overhaul her agency.

Meagan Wolfe, the nonpartisan administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), acknowledged she has no control over what changes Republicans might make to the agency in the future, but emphasized the importance of a bipartisan commission.

"One of the things I think is underappreciated about our structure is that every decision is made is public…and we have six hyper partisan individuals appointed by legislative leadership," said Wolfe.

Republicans are discussing giving the Secretary of State's office, currently held by a Democrat Doug La Follette, more duties over elections in attempt to increase oversight.

Wolfe has mixed feelings about the idea.

"I think there's always a give and take in terms of what a different structure could bring or takeaway from the transparency of the process," said Wolfe.

Any changes to the office would have to be approved by the legislature and Gov. Tony Evers, who is up for reelection next year.

State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) recently filed to run for secretary of state and is the first high-profile challenger to La Follette.

Loudenbeck supports giving the office more control, but others want to outright eliminate WEC. Former Republican Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who's running against Evers, promised if elected she would get rid of commission.

Republicans, who created the commission, ramped up their efforts to target the agency after a nonpartisan legislative audit found no evidence of fraud, but made dozens of recommendations for commissioners to consider.

On Wednesday, the commission did take up several suggestions from the audit. However, approving those recommendations and submitting them to lawmakers can be a lengthy process.

Commissioners said they would work toward promulgating rules to address auditors' concerns including, specifying the use of ballot drop boxes, whether or not clerks are fill him missing information on absentee ballots, clarifying the process for relocation polling places, and establishing standards for voting equipment.

“We were pleased to finally be able to dig into all of the LAB recommendations with the full commission, and it feels like we made great progress,” Wolfe said.

Some of the audit's recommendations required no action from commissioner. Wolfe said they were discussed but said WEC is already in full compliance, such as having an agreement with the Department of Transportation to obtain the electronic signatures of individuals who register online to vote.

The WEC already has an agreement with DOT to obtain the signatures when needed.

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