State Elections Commission Gets Testy
Republican members demand Democratic commission chair step down. And she doesn't.
Tuesday’s meeting of the Wisconsin Elections Commission should have been a straightforward affair. The commission was scheduled to certify the results of all the elections that took place across the state on November 3rd. But the actual meeting that took place was anything but straightforward.
The commission even needed to debate the rules of allowing the public to comment. And after listening to an hour of virtual community testimony from clerks, politicians, poll workers and observers from across the state, the six-member body got out the long knives. The Republicans attempted to shut down the meeting and called for the Democratic chair to resign.
But Jacobs’ move didn’t please her Republican peers. “I’ve lost all confidence in you as the chair,” said Republican commissioner and former state legislator Dean Knudson. He said she had destroyed the bipartisan nature of the commission. “Until this gets resolved, the commission should take no further action on today’s agenda.” He said Jacobs should have waited so the other commissioners could weigh in and accused her of conducting a “dog and pony show” in her brief video broadcast in which she signed the paperwork and made a statement.
Robert Spindell, a fellow Republican and frequent Jacobs sparring partner, seconded the motion to table the day’s agenda. It failed on a party-line vote.
Spindell said the certification was “apparently a Democratic publicity ploy to rush the certification.” He also criticized the commission staff for sending him emails only the day before a meeting, saying it was being done to keep the commission in the dark and pushed for a longer lead time, which drew a sharp rebuke from Jacobs. She noted that much of the information wasn’t available until just before the emails were sent and that commission staff are explicitly non-partisan and shouldn’t be attacked.
Spindell shot back: “You have not only set a standard of mistrust with all your Republican commissioners, we cannot count on you to do what you say you will do.”
Attorney Mark Thomsen, a Democratic appointee, said Spindell could read his emails the night before if he wanted. He said Spindell’s line of reasoning would result in the commission unable to hold emergency meetings that it sometimes must to resolve election results.
Thomsen said when he was chair in 2016 he acted in the same way Jacobs had, and didn’t engender criticism for certifying Trump the winner. “The only thing I see that’s different is Ann Jacobs is a woman and I’m a white guy,” Thomsen said.
The commission was created by Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2015 to replace the Government Accountability Board. The new format has resulted in a number of 3-3 votes that punt issues to courts, often after hours of acrimonious debate.
Jacobs ultimately moved to certify the election results of the remaining races, less the previously certified presidential race. Knudson objected. He took issue with the public notice that said the chair would issue the certificates, not the commission, and said it went against state law.
“If somebody getting elected objects, they can file a lawsuit,” Thomsen said. “People want to get on with their lives.”
The commission voted 5-1, with Spindell in objection, to approve the ballot design for the 2021 spring election.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.
- Data Wonk: New Voters Won the 2020 Election - Bruce Thompson - Jan 20th, 2021
- GOP State Legislators Asked Pence to Not Certify Election - Melanie Conklin - Jan 14th, 2021
- Rep. Hintz: Condemns Republican Legislators’ Lies and Dangerous Rhetoric - State Rep. Gordon Hintz - Jan 14th, 2021
- Tiffany, Fitzgerald Object To Some Biden Electors - Shawn Johnson - Jan 7th, 2021
- Sen. Baldwin: “It’s Disgraceful” - Urban Milwaukee - Jan 6th, 2021
- Rep Moore Blames Trump for Today’s Chaos - Urban Milwaukee - Jan 6th, 2021
- Rep. Gallagher: “We are witnessing absolute banana republic crap in the United States Capitol right now” - Urban Milwaukee - Jan 6th, 2021
- Back in the News: Cleta Mitchell Resigns from Foley Firm - Bruce Murphy - Jan 5th, 2021
- Gallagher Assails GOP Push to Nullify Election - Rob Mentzer - Jan 5th, 2021
- Back in the News: Foley Firm Faces Blowback on Trump Call - Bruce Murphy - Jan 5th, 2021
Read more about 2020 General Election here
- Legislature Refuses to Change Absentee Vote Counting Law - Nora Eckert - Dec 5th, 2020
- Supervisor Martin Thanks Election Commission for Successfully Completing the Recount - Sup. Felesia Martin - Dec 2nd, 2020
- State Elections Commission Gets Testy - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 1st, 2020
- State Declares Biden Won Election - Graham Kilmer - Nov 30th, 2020
- Recount Reaffirms that Wisconsin Voters Picked Joe Biden - A Better Wisconsin Together - Nov 30th, 2020
- AG Kaul Issues Statement on Completion of Partial Recount in Wisconsin - Josh Kaul - Nov 30th, 2020
- Wisconsin Recount Grows Biden’s Margin, But Trump Says Fight Isn’t Over - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 29th, 2020
- Trump Promises Lawsuit Challenging Wisconsin Election Results - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 29th, 2020
- Milwaukee County Completes Recount - George Christenson - Nov 27th, 2020
- Milwaukee County Recount Finished, Dane County Continuing - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 27th, 2020
Read more about Presidential Recount here