by Benjamin Yount
The full Wisconsin Elections Commission is going to have to agree before making any changes to the state’s election rules going forward.
A judge in Waukesha County last month ruled that the Elections Commission administrator, Meagan Wolfe, and her staff cannot issue guidance on their own.
“In their individual capacity neither Wolfe, nor Rydecki, nor any other WEC staffer has the authority to provide legal advice to municipal clerks or local election officials regarding compliance with Wisconsin Election laws,” Judge Michael Aprahamian said during a hearing on September 21. “In their official capacity, neither Wolfe nor Rydecki nor any other WEC staffer has any authority to provide legal advice or guidance regarding compliance with Wisconsin Election Law except as authorized by a majority vote of the Commission two-thirds vote.”
Rydecki is Richard Rydecki who is the Assistant Administrator of the Elections Commission.
The ruling comes from the legal challenge to the Commission’s guidance back in 2020 that kept special voting deputies out of nursing homes during the coronavirus outbreak. That order led to allegations that nursing home workers were filling out ballots for elderly voters, including some who should not have voted because they were declared incompetent.
Judge Aprahamian said Wisconsin law is clear that the Elections Commission can issue guidance and interpretations of the state’s election laws. But he said the law is clear commissioners must make those decisions.
“The unique nature and structure of the Commission, comprised of political appointments to provide equal representation for the two major political parties, confirms the need for all the guidance and advice to have the approval of the Commission, which is to say, from the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of the members,” the judge ordered.
A two-thirds vote means a 4-2 vote.
“This is a big win for everyone in the state of Wisconsin,” Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, told The Center Square. “At the end of the day, everybody should know the rules of an election well before it starts.”
Brandtjen said the judge’s order will bring an end to all manner of guidance from the Elections Commission.
“The guidance is not the law, guidance is toilet paper,” she said. “Clerks and municipalities have now been warned that they are not to change the rules a week before the election.”
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