Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is pushing for his state's bipartisan elections agency to be stripped of its power and given instead to the Republican-controlled legislature, Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) has reported.
Johnson said he has "completely lost confidence in the Wisconsin Elections Commission" after a nonpartisan report was released last month on how the election last year was run in the state and pointed out that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislators the power to set the "times, places and manner" of federal elections.
"I think the state legislature needs to reassert its authority [and] make sure that, in the federal elections, our election clerks follow state law, not guidances that are contrary to state law," he said.
The nonpartisan election report found no widespread voter fraud that would have altered the outcome of last year’s election, although it made dozens of recommendations for updating the agency's policies and state laws connected to elections and pointed out some ways the elections commission did not follow some state laws in 2020, several of which stemmed from commission guidance to local election officials during the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson's urging of legislative takeover of federal elections was first reported earlier this month by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, but since then Republican state legislative leaders have said they doubted such an idea is possible for various reasons, including that the U.S. Supreme Court and Wisconsin Supreme Court would not allow such action to be taken.
Johnson has insisted, however, that some change needs to happen to restore public faith in elections, telling WPR that "this is an unsustainable state of affairs where, at the end of the 2016 election, half of the country didn’t view that election as a legitimate result and here in 2020 the other half is saying this is not legitimate."
Johnson has previously said there was "nothing obviously skewed" about the 2020 election, which Joe Biden narrowly won in the state.
However, he told WPR that he doesn’t have faith in the backing of Democrats for election integrity, saying "it does seem the Democrats want to make it easier to cheat the elections. They keep pushing the boundaries of what’s allowable."
Since the election report, state Republican leaders have called on Meagan Wolfe, the head of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, to resign, but she has refused to do so and has argued that "this is partisan politics at its worst, but, at the same time, I have an obligation as the state's nonpartisan chief election official to rise above it," NPR reported.
Wisconsin’s Democrat Gov. Tony Evers has criticized Johnson’s proposal as an overreach by the GOP and has also stymied Republican-backed election bills throughout the year, saying that "as long as I'm governor of this great state, anti-democracy efforts like this [new limits on absentee voting] will never see the light of day."
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